State control of sex, or Eucharistic Coherence?
The latest report out of the United Kingdom on widespread child sexual abuse within non-Catholic religious settings is not surprising but it still manages to send all the wrong signals—just as almost every revelation of child sexual abuse has done for the past twenty-five years. The problem, of course, is that that the horror of child sexual abuse is always outlined against a stark background of sexual abuse among “consenting adults” which is not only legal but protected and fostered by both culture and government.
In a society which, at the adult consensual level, typically defends all manner of sexual abuse as “love”, those who “love” children in the same ways may well perceive themselves as riding the next great wave of positive change. May they not reasonably hope it is only a matter of time before their own form of abuse is recognized as liberating, wise and good? Or to put the matter more bluntly: They cannot help but recognize that the opprobrium heaped upon them for their own sexual desires is not fair. And insofar as this opprobrium is heaped up in only one dark corner of a libertine culture, they are absolutely right.
The predictable conclusion of the UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, like so many previous inquiries throughout the Western world, is that more rules, regulations, and governmental oversight are needed to keep children safe. But this is fatuous in light of the defense of broader sexual liberties which dominates our public culture today. The last institution anyone can trust to keep children safe today is government. We are, after all, talking about a political and legal system which increasingly ensures that parents not “interfere” in their children’s sexual decisions, regarding not only recreational sex but even gender identity and sex-change operations.
Challenging the sex drive
It is impossible to curtail sexual abuse of any kind without the cultivation of the virtue of purity. And for most people, it is impossible to cultivate the virtue of purity without prayer, struggle and grace. It is doubly, triply, quadruply (and more) difficult to develop this virtue in a society which deliberately and continuously fosters impurity, not only in the breach but with the full force of government and law.
It ought to be very difficult for any sincere Christian (who, by definition, must value purity) to advocate government guidelines, regulations and oversight as a solution to the problem of child sexual abuse. In the Western world today the increase of governmental regulation opens families and children to the deliberate inculcation of lies about human sexuality, and the deliberate establishment of terms and conditions under which the loss of innocence is specifically directed and sexual perversion is deliberately promoted. Sending children to public schools throughout the West is to send them for indoctrination in sexual depravity. One would think the majority of parents could not be so stupid as to sign on for this pre-determined treatment. But one would be very, very wrong.
Is it any wonder, then, that child sexual abuse is now more widespread than ever? It would take a moron not to see the long pattern of acceptance of one deviant pattern of sexual activity after another over the past hundred years. We have proceeded smoothly from public horror, to public “understanding”, to public acceptance, to public protection, to public indoctrination. The trend has been hastened by the decline and disgrace of Christianity itself, in a mimicry of the dominant culture so clear as to make one wonder whether even the churches do not prefer to be—just like academia—always and everywhere on their backs, supine and ready for the game.
Indeed, it is only now that we are beginning to see a growing recognition among Catholic bishops that the Church, like her Founder, must choose deliberately to be a sign of contradiction. The result is a rising interest in what is being called “Eucharistic coherence”. It is true that, on the surface, this expression lacks the bite of contradiction, but it is potentially far deeper. The question is simple: Will “Eucharistic coherence” transcend mere academic conceptualization and become a rallying cry for a Church bent on serious renewal? Or as St. Paul put it:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality.* Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. [* Throughout the NT, the word commonly translated by “immorality” refers specifically to sexual immorality; 1 Cor 6:15-20]
Eucharistic coherence means nothing if it does not mean allowing Christ to shape within us a personal culture which He can sanctify through the life-giving Body and Blood we worship and receive at Mass. Do we honestly think we can be transformed into models of virtue and bearers of life by the paltry regulatory powers of the State? Do we honestly believe that any State, no matter how comprehensive, can regulate the desires of the human heart or cure the illnesses of the human soul? Or even that any State can consistently discern the difference between good and evil?
We need trust in Christ to turn this around, not trust in the State, which is surely the least trustworthy apparatus known to man. We need virtue, not endless inquiries and reports on how to protect ourselves precisely without the cultivation of virtue. We need grace, and not the endless verbiage of those who think they can both define and regulate human depravity in the absence of grace. The State is typically extremely good at filling the vacuum left by the departure of virtue. The State is typically extremely bad at fostering virtue so that virtue itself might displace the State’s own regulatory power.
But if we have a Church that is more concerned to imitate the State’s penchant for policies and procedures than to preach Christ, administer the sacraments, and convert sinners, then we have lost the organizing principle of Jesus Christ insofar as it is visible in this world. If we have a Church that hides itself in the face of every sort of pandemic, whether of infection or of infidelity, then perhaps we too will begin to prefer a culture of death, saying, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!” Then too may we turn to the power of the State, as if to say to the mountain, “Fall on us”, and to the hill, “Cover us”. (cf. Lk 23:28-31)
Have we not done all this while the wood was still green? If the branches have been lopped off and the wood is dry, what now? Well, I pray that it will be Eucharistic coherence, for it is so obviously time to cut, and to regraft, and to renew our sap. This is hard and even painful work—for every member of the Catholic Church. But it is not first a work to change others. It is first a permission for Christ to change me.
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