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Originally preached as one of Fr. Nagel's homilies.
Elise is a six-year old who lives with her grandmother, and whose mother had a baby with someone other than Elise’s father. ‘I hate it when my Mom comes home with her new baby and her new boyfriend. Why do I have to live with my grandma? Why doesn’t my mother love me? Why does that baby get to live with her, and I don’t?’ she asks.
Bethany’s husband Joe is a pornography addict. He lost interest in her and their children. He divorced her. He moved in with another woman and no longer has any interest in the faith she thought they shared. 'Earning a living and supporting and caring for the kids is tough,’ she said, 'I don’t know what I would do if my parents hadn’t moved closer to help me.'
Tom’s mother was married and divorced twice. Neither of these men was Tom’s father. Tom has one half-sister. Neither of his mother’s husbands was her father, either. Tom had never really had a relationship with his father. Tom married a woman named Genevieve, whose mother and her first husband adopted a child. Later they decided to have another child through anonymous donor conception. That was Genevieve. When Genevieve was eight, her mother and her husband divorced. The husband wanted shared custody of the adopted child but not of Genevieve.
Those are some scenarios from the beginning of Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse’s book, The Sexual State, about the costs and casualties of the Sexual Revolution. I thought about them this past Tuesday at the March for Life in Olympia. The marchers always walk to the steps of the capital by going past the supreme court. On the steps of the supreme court are the pro legal-abortion counter-protesters. As I walked, I thought, “Here is the existential experience of our society – the fundamental conflict buried beneath so many other tensions that undermine our peace. Only here it’s out in the open with all the shouting, bitterness, and anger, while most of the time the consequences of the Sexual Revolution are fiercely silenced or ignored. I felt compelled to preach about that situation today.
The world says the Sexual Revolution has been a great success because it has given all of us, especially women, more freedom, autonomy, and sexual pleasure. But there is another side to the story that is rarely heard or admitted. Elise, Bethany, Tom, Genevieve, and all their millions of companions, in addition to the aborted children, are the losers in all this supposed freedom and pleasure.
Roback Morse says the Sexual Revolution is built on three ideologies: First, The Contraception Ideology, which says we can separate sex from childbearing. This ideology claims that there’s no happy life without sex, so sexual activity without a baby resulting is an entitlement. Contraception insures this right is available. But since, in fact, we can’t actually have unlimited sexual activity over the long haul without babies resulting, every contraceptive culture must have legal abortion to protect the delusional promise of the ideology. They must, and always do, go together. That’s the hard truth Pro-Lifers need to grasp. It’s why there’s so little real movement on their cause.
The second ideology at the root of the Revolution is the No-Fault Divorce Ideology that separates sex and children from marriage. If people want to join these things together, great, but there is no expectation they should. Two unspoken assumptions with this ideology are, first, children don’t need steady relationships with their parents. The kids will be fine as long as their parents – or one parent -- is happy. Second, adults don’t have any serious responsibilities towards their children beyond doing them no physical harm. The emotional happiness of a parent trumps the emotional well-being of the child.
The third Ideology is the Gender Ideology that Pope Francis regularly attacks. This states that all differences we observe between men and women are socially constructed and we can deconstruct them without any social harm. In fact, if we don’t, it’s an injustice. This goes beyond the just demand for equal opportunity, dignity and respect for women to saying that men and women are interchangeable and sexual difference doesn’t matter because it doesn’t really exist.
The unifying principle of this revolution is that adults have the right to do anything they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. The problem is that all three ideologies are based on lies -- fantasies, that, in fact, do hurt others. Sex does produce babies. Children do need their parents in order to be healthy, men and women are different in important ways. But to protect these lies, our society does everything possible to silence or ignore the victims of the revolution because the Sexual Revolution is the core value of our society. The state reinforces the Sexual Revolution by its laws and the media with its films, songs, and shows. Just try publicly questioning any of these ideologies and see what happens. I get more nasty e-mails and letters when I give a homily questioning these ideologies than all the other homilies put together.
Given our fallen human nature there will always be suffering when it comes to creating children and families. No philosophy will be perfect, certainly the Christian culture the Church created wasn’t. But these days we only hear of its sufferings, not its virtues. And we hear little about the victims of the Sexual Revolution because it sort of works for the upper middle-class people with college degrees who run society.
But what about everybody else? Who listens to them? They’re often small, powerless, or poor. And I’m not only talking about the thousands of children who are aborted each day. I’m talking about Elise, Bethany, Tom and Genevieve. I’m talking about the children who are pawns of lawyers and who wonder if they’re responsible for their parents’ divorce, and the involuntarily divorced father driven from his home, who lives in a spartan apartment, seeing his kids every other weekend, and the woman who didn’t want an abortion, but was afraid her husband or boyfriend would leave her if she didn’t have it. They may not even know they’re victims of the Sexual Revolution. They’ve never heard of it. They just know they are hurting, but don’t know why and haven’t connected the dots: that the Christian Sexual Revolution of the first century AD accepted adult suffering for the sake of children, while the Secular Sexual Revolution of the 20th century requires that children suffer so the adults can be happy.
By now there are no easy answers. We’re so tangled up in these false ideologies and their fantasies that they now seem normal and living without them seems impossible. Our kids are increasingly fragile, anxious, and depressed. Partly this is due to all the screens, social media and internet. But it’s also due to the Sexual Revolution catching up with us. For the past few decades we’ve survived on the leftover social capital of the traditional era, but now marriage and families have reached the critical point. Things are starting to fall apart. Let’s have a conversation about what we’re doing – a conversation that admits the real costs of the Sexual Revolution and all the people who are destroyed or made miserable by it.
In the Gospel Jesus came to His home town and shocked them. He announced, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” And His own people grew angry when they learned he was talking about them and tried to throw Him off a cliff. In the face of our own suffering, Jesus, through His Church’s teachings, proclaims to us today the same liberty to the victims and captives of the Sexual Revolution. Is He the Messiah, or are we also going to try to throw Him off the cliff?