I was at my 50th high school class reunion recently and met some classmates who were delightful. But I found others in such depressing situations — divorced a number of times, living without family or home. I felt so bad when they came to me with their depressing stories. We were the 1960s folks with freedom and love. How did we end up like this?
We have the 50th anniversary of Saint Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on human life, “Humanae Vitae,” and I think we need to admit that this Age of Aquarius has not been kind to families, marriages and kids. It is time to take a long look where the sexual revolution has led us.
If you look at the most devastating time of clergy, abuse it comes in the time of the sexual revolution in the 1960s through the 1980s. This was a time when boundaries were dropped and sexual experimentation was encouraged. We have been devastated by the sexual revolution. The porn epidemic, the divorce epidemic, the abuse of women, the absentee fathers — these all can be traced to this false sexual revolution. It has taken a toll on us culturally, in families and in the church. Most horrific is the aborting of 1 billion children in the world during the last 50 years.
Abortion became the backup plan for a failed contraception culture. Think about this. One sixth of the world population has been aborted worldwide during our lifetime. It is so necessary to stop for a moment and admit that the contraception mentality that Saint Paul VI warned us about happened. If you block the openness to life for just mere pleasure, you leave out the deep reason for sexual intimacy between a husband and wife. This turns sex into a product or plaything. As someone said of our day, we have made everything backwards. Our sports games, which are for play, we make sacred, yet sex, which is sacred, we make into play.
Mary Eberstad wrote in “The Prophetic Power of Humanae Vitae”: “The promise of sex on demand, unencumbered by constraint, may be the strongest collective temptation humanity has ever encountered. That’s why, since the invention of the birth control pill, resistance to the traditional Christian code has been unremittingly ferocious, and why so many in the laity and clergy wish that this rule — among others — was less taxing. As the disciples of Jesus Christ complained upon hearing his teaching about marriage, these lessons are ‘hard.’ But to confuse ‘hard’ with ‘wrong’ is a fundamental error.”
I have thought about this statement so many times.
Eberstad continued: “Fifty years ago, when contraception became commonplace, many people of good will defended it precisely for the reason that they thought it would render abortion obsolete. Reliable birth control, they reasoned, would prevent abortion. But the statistical record since the 1960s shows this commonly held logic to be wrong. Many studies have emanated from the social sciences during the past decades trying to explain what secular wisdom regards as a puzzling fact. Far from preventing abortion and unplanned pregnancies, contraception’s effects after the invention of the pill ran quite the other way: Rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births all exploded simultaneously.”
So what to do in our time? We start a new sexual revolution. I have taken Romans 12: 1-2 as the challenge to live a different way in our time.
“I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
It is not just enough to say contraception is wrong. We have to show how to say yes to authentic love. Because we are made for this. We are hardwired for authentic love. It is written in our bodies. As Saint John Paul II says, love is sincere gift of self and it only in this that we truly find ourselves. He promotes a new vision for our time in his writings “Theology of the Body.” We see the vocation of love carved in our bodies. The male body fits the female body just to a T. We are all called to the vocation of giving and receiving love. Married or celibate.
How do you convince others that chastity is really love? That purity is really love? Most in our time think with their emotions. Our feelings rule supreme. If it feels right, you do it. We need moral decisions based not only on emotion but also on authentic love. What is love? Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that love is to will and do the best for the other. That is a lot more than just emotion. Many times to love means laying your life down for your beloved.
If we are not loving with sacrifice, then we fail to love. If you say with your body I am all yours but then walk away, you lied with your body. Real love is doing something for the other even when it doesn’t feel good. Real love is ready to protect and defend the other’s relationship with God. If young people understand the real difference between authentic love and its imitation — the difference between I love you and I want you — they will choose authentic love. It is hardwired in our hearts. If young people understand the difference, they will choose purity and offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, their spiritual worship. We are already starting a new sexual revolution because the world is tired of the old revolution of using each other. We are hungry for authentic love. We want what is good, pleasing and perfect. We want God’s plan of love for us.