Sexual abuse is one of many issues in our sex-obsessed culture


Two shoes fell on the same day. First, the Boy Scouts of America declared bankruptcy because they had spent so much money in settlements or court-ordered payments to victims of child sex abuse by the Scouts’ personnel. Second, the governing body of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s second-largest religious denomination, met in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping to address sex abuse on the part of its ministers and employees.

(As an aside, forget the hunches that celibacy and same-gender attraction are the roots of child sex abuse. Look at the Southern Baptist situation. Male ministers who are not married to women are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Most Baptist clergy and congregational leaders are parents.)

Pedophilia is all through society. It is a psychological abnormality. Still, the disgrace faced by many leaders in the Scouts, by Catholic priests, by Southern Baptist figures and by so many others, such as teachers, coupled by the unfolding story of widespread sexual exploitation of women in so many places, suggests that psychopathology is not the only problem.

The culture has gone haywire when it comes to sex and sexuality, in the process utterly discarding not only customs valued for millennia, but the once, and not that long ago, moral traditions of Western religion.

When did this trend begin? The Church in this country 80 or 90 years ago tried valiantly to prevent divorce. Under Church legislation, any Catholic who filed for divorce automatically was excommunicated, almost whatever the circumstances. This stern action did not serve its purpose, and it was withdrawn.

In a more pastoral response, groups formed: Cana conferences, Marriage Encounter and the Christian Family Movement, to name several of the more prominent. Catholics planning to be married soon were required by almost all dioceses, not just urged, to participate in some process of preparation for marriage.

As divorces increased, dioceses strengthened their courts, or tribunals, so as better to resolve marriages that were challenged as sacramentally invalid. It was an effort not to crack the whip, but to enable people to enter marriages that were more wisely considered.

All these efforts cannot be dismissed as failures, but divorces continued to grow in number.

Adultery has been a problem in religious circles since King David in ancient Israel, but certainly as any priest who hears confessions knows quite well, today infidelity on the part of spouses occurs with shocking frequency.

To repeat, our culture has gone crazy on the subject of sex. Add the drift away from God, and the take-it-or-leave-it attitude about all moral principles set forth by religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptists, and we have what we have.

Nobody who thinks straight would say that current cultural approaches to sexual intimacy open the door to uncompromised freedom and joy. Divorce, infidelity, pedophilia and the like often result in great unhappiness for someone.

Another trend, along these lines, is cohabitation. It quickly is becoming an accepted way of life. Anyone who questions such relationships is dismissed not only as old fashioned but as controlling and bigoted.

This following statement comes not from Catholic morality but from nonsectarian professional sociological studies. Intimacy without marriage, or “living together,” has risks. Such unions, however charming our culture may depict them, or how socially received they presently are, well may bring heartbreak.

Clergy sex abuse has been public in the Catholic Church for a generation now. I wish that I had a dime for every hour that I have spent in workshops, lectures and study groups on the subject. As noted already, genital attraction to children is a sickness.

Still, the culture’s disregard for divinely revealed moral standards significantly has contributed to the problem.

Many Catholics could not care less about life among Southern Baptists or the Boy Scouts, but all should realize how sweeping are the problems of our culture in its flight from God.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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