I have a tendency to begin posts on sex by stressing my own moral shortcomings. Odd that I should spontaneously feel this will enhance my credibility, isn’t it?
The progressive puritan believes one should not criticize a sin if one indulges in it oneself; that would be hypocrisy. We Catholics are nearly the opposite, feeling it is better to criticize only one’s own sins or the sins to which one is prone. We feel more comfortable affirming moral demands whose burden or censure we ourselves share.
“Everybody commits sexual sins” is the punchline of jokes in the West going back to the Middle Ages. Our unchastity is a spiritual calamity, to be sure, but it is also very humbling, very civilizing. Who can boast?
For that matter, even those who do remain chaste, even in the hardest case of celibacy, feel little temptation to brag. Really, sexual temptations are weak, much weaker than the compulsions of pain or fear of imminent death. We admire those who defy the latter because of the strength of what they resisted. We give in to illicit sexual urges not because they are so strong but because our will is so weak. We didn’t really want to resist. If I had believed death or mutilation would follow my indulgence, I would have had no trouble resisting.
Sodomy is sodomy. In the eyes of the Lord, getting a blow job from your wife is the same as going to a gay bathhouse and engaging in buggery with multiple disease-ridden strangers. If we use God’s categories rather than modern man’s, most of us will be found to be in the same state as the homosexuals. Which means…we are in a position to judge! Heterosexual sin is far worse, because far more widespread, and I suspect heterosexuals are more likely to murder their children in utero, a sin God abhors much more than the sexual sins it enables. But we heterosexual perverts have this going for us: we’re not trying to persecute the Church for telling the truth about our transgressions, not trying to bully her into telling us accommodating lies. This is our little virtue–“tolerance”, one might call it–and a proof to the homosexual perverts that it can be done with no great spiritual heroism.
Morality–why do we so automatically associate it with sexual issues? Most of my duties have to do with taking care of my family and with my job. However, I never have to be motivated solely, or even mostly, by a sense of moral duty when it comes to those. I could ask myself, as a thought experiment, “How badly could I neglect my children and get away with it?” or “How little work could I do without getting fired?”, but even the thoughts anger me. I don’t want to neglect my children. I want them to flourish. First because I love them. Strip away that, and I still have a selfish, proprietary desire to see them do well. Strip away even that, and I still have a selfish desire not to think of myself as a bad parent. Strip away even that, and we are (fortunately) integrated well enough in our community that the kids couldn’t do too badly before it would be noticed. So, really, I’ve never have to motivate myself to care for my kids by appealing to bare moral principle. Affection, vanity, social expectations, and morality all work together to make any alternative unthinkable.
What are the consequences of sexual sins? But what makes them sins is the very altering of the act so that it doesn’t have consequences. Here, the moral law must stand naked, and its frailty in our souls is revealed.
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