Ideas Have Consequences

Last week we looked at how a sane sexual ethic, unhinged from the Catholic tradition, decays. The Christian revelation teaches us 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.

Rejecting the faith, our culture has assumed that Christian sexual morality would simply continue by custom. Instead, our enshrinement of consent as the sold criterion of the good has meant the embrace of fornication, no-fault divorce and, most recently, gay “marriage”.

But when you make consent the sole criterion of the good as our culture already has, there’s no particular reason to stop there. As the popularity of shows like Big Love demonstrates, our manufacturers of culture are already pressing hard on the "taboo" concerning the number "two". So long as everybody is consenting, then why not celebrate polygamy as well? That's “Big Love”, whereas narrow, crabbed Christianity is all about small love, doncha know.

After this, comes the whole "not related by blood" thing. Indeed, as some warm and sympathetic news stories have already shown, the campaign to legitimate incest needs only some sobbing HBO movie or Oprah interview to make the case for it in pop culture. If a brother and sister truly love each other (the argument goes), what business does cold-hearted society have interfering in a matter of consent between individuals? As one commenter on a recent incest story in the British press put it: "Good on them! This story highlights the absurd and arbitrary moralising taboos that our society likes to construct around sexual relations." Once again, we see the triumph of the notion that consent is the sole criterion of the good.

But wait! We're not done! Since, in our post-Christian culture, consent is the sole criterion of the good and there is no reference to made at all to the common good, it follows that other "taboos" must go too. Who says that sex between consenting adult human beings is all that's good and beautiful? What about sex between consenting human beings whose souls are tragically separated by the accident of mere age differences? The North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) makes exactly the same “consent is the sole criterion of the good” arguments that all these other revolutionaries are making against the Church’s understanding of the Common Good. And a culture that already grants the premise that consent between two people who love each is all that matters is in no position at all to make an argument that NAMBLA is wrong. All it can do is say "Eww!" as it once said to homosex.

But "Eww!" is not an argument. It's an aesthetic judgment. And aesthetic judgments are no basis for a nation's laws, as our media advocates of gay "marriage" remind us every day. So, if we are going to accept the premise that consent alone is all that matters, we will someday have to make room for star-crossed lovers like Mary Kay LaTourneau and Vili Fualaau, the teacher and sixth grade student who found “true love” as our culture likes to call it. They are, if the sexual liberationists are right, just two of the victims of lingering religious taboos that continue to impede our progress to complete sexual liberation. All that matters is that they loved one another!

And yet, even if this barrier of religious “taboo” is overcome, we still will not have achieved complete liberation. Since consent is all that matters, it must be asked—and indeed is being asked among the hyper-sophisticated in major universities—why our narrow Christianity-ridden culture is still so hagridden with homocentrism that it is not able to open itself to the splendor of more earth-affirming pagan cultures, which once celebrated sexual union, not merely with members of our own species but with others as well! If we are going to throw out all that repressed Levitical stuff about homosex, why on earth are we allowing it a say in what a man and his sheep might want to do in the privacy of their own barn? Who is society to impose their views on those who find such a relationship fulfilling?

The normal response by advocates of gay "marriage" to all this is "That will never happen". In this, they sound exactly like abortion supporters back in the 70s scoffing that it would never lead to euthanasia. But in reality, the only "argument" our present culture has against any of these developments is "Eww!" because we have no conception of what constitutes the Good beyond "consent". Make that the sole criterion and every one of these developments is not only perfectly logical but virtually inevitable.

“And so what if they are?” asks the post-Christian. What indeed? Next week we shall explore “So what?”

Copyright 2009 - Mark P. Shea