Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fake Moral Outrage. . .

Anthony Esolen recently used a sentence to describe the outrage of many against the McCarrick and  associated sex abuse scandals.   We are pigs in a sty, complaining that the boar stinksI thought about what he wrote and wondered if it was not exactly the situation, not simply for Rome and its scandals but for the wider story of abuse and sexual license.  We complain about what is wrong but we do nothing to repair the wrong except blame the wrongdoer.  We strive for the easy goal of trying to be good when goodness costs us nothing but we give it up as soon as it requires anything from us.

In the McCarrick scandal the problem is not simply one bishop but many.  It is not that McCarrick is one bad apple but rather that Rome has labored under a denial of the problem and a denial of responsibility by those could have, should have, and probably did know something of it but denied it or ignored it.  Here I am not so much addressing the issue of celibacy as much as the issue of homosexuality among the clergy.  Here the issue is not only the issue of disordered desire but also the willingness to do more than try to live a chaste and pure life.  Yet at the same time, the people pointing their fingers are the same folks who show disdain and mock the whole idea of purity, chastity, and holiness.  A culture that winks at consensual immorality of all kinds has reduced morality simply to consent.

At the same time, the #metoo movement has proven effective at bringing down people who many were thought untouchable and yet there is something wrong here.  The same people who rightfully condemn that actions of the offenders at the same time are perfectly comfortable with a culture in which hook ups and sexual liaisons are not wrong except when they are not consensual.  Add to this the fact that many of the people who are so strong with their words of condemnation continue to dress provocatively and to flaunt sexuality while expecting the lookers to look beyond that to the inner beauty of the person.  Can you have it both ways?  Is morality defined simply by a yes or a no?

Much of the moral outrage is fake.  Our culture does not want to give up its immorality excused simply because it is consensual or because it is does not hurt anyone (as some claim about pornography).  Culture wants it all -- free sex without commitment, love that is momentary infatuation, judgment free choice as long as it is consensual, abortion and an out from the ordinary intended fruit of sexual intercourse -- while at the same time remaining free to condemn what it does not like -- self-denial, chastity, and purity.  We love to admire such virtues but we do not strive very hard to emulate them in our own lives.

In the midst of all of this, the Church must do more than mirror the words we hear from culture.  We need to do more than ask people to try.  We must call people to the sacrificial struggle of self-denial which is the hallmark of those who confess the Gospel with their lips.  That is what Rome forgot and what we forget when we remain silent about the pursuit of virtue while being loud in our protests against the wrongs in fashion at the moment.

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