Father James G. Martin, S.J., is either a cruel or a foolish man. It does not seem to be the first. But if it is not that, it must be the second, because that alone can explain how a Catholic priest can live in the midst of massive and unprecedented family breakdown, and the chaos, loneliness, and alienation consequent upon it, and still wave the banner for the latest innovation in sexual confusion.
He is good at telling stories. Let me tell a few.
Fifteen years ago I was in a Boston hospital, lying on a bed in an out-patient ward where the sexes were not separated. In the next stall was a pudgy young woman, sniffling. When the nurse came round, she asked the girl whether she was sure she wanted to go through with the “procedure.” The girl said she was. For the record, the nurse asked why.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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The reason was straightforward enough. She had a two year old at home whose father was nowhere to be found. The child she was carrying was begotten by another man, also not in the picture. She did not have the energy to take care of both. When the nurse asked if she had any way of getting home, she said her brother was going to come get her after work.
That was that, and the nurse left. The girl kept up the sniffling. You see, Father, what the god of this age hath wrought?
I know a young man who was a firm Catholic when he left home for college, but he was unformed in theology, and the ethos roundabout him was secular and hedonistic. He fell in love with a girl, and one evening when they were on the floor doing things they should not have been doing, she surprised him with a trick from Sodom; and from that evening on, he lost any sense that the Church had something to say about that whole realm of human action. The affair went on, because he was in love, after all. His mind was clouded, he says, and he did things that years later still bring him intense shame. The results were predictable. Nervous days, fearing—fearing!—the natural result of what they were doing, while he, making foolish excuses, told himself that of course they would keep the child and get married. Right; she and her divorced parents would never have stood for it.
The story of the Sexual Revolution is writ in blood. This time, by happy chance, it was not, but it could well have been. The girl found someone else to play the game of hedonism with, someone less serious about marriage, and the boy was left angry, hurt, and, such is the stultifying effect of lust, unapologetic about the pleasant wickedness wherein he and she with full consent had conspired. Multiply him by fifty million. Then I think of a clever and energetic little boy whose family I love dearly, and who is lucky enough to live with grandmother and grandfather, and with plenty of other family around him, but whose father is a dreadful man, having sired children upon three different women. What are the chances that that boy will not learn the lessons of fornication all around him?
I know of a parish whose priest was a homosexual abuser. His foul deeds robbed the local churches of their meager funds, including bequests made by faithful parishioners at their passing. He had portrayed himself as a manly fellow, interested in coaching the teenage boys at wrestling and boxing. One day a friend of mine, a teenage boy, called on the rectory and the priest answered, his arms slicked with oil up to the elbows. My friend recalled that detail years later, saying that at the time he had no idea what it might mean. It was clear that those boys were not coerced, but enticed, seduced. After all, they outnumbered the priest, and they were big. The abuser had won their consent.
Catholic rainbows have no desire to enter into the mind and heart of a young man who has been so enticed. What so gnaws upon him later, if not the warping of his natural manhood, is being led to engage in a deed against which the gorge rises. Yet they would leave young men by the millions beset by such offers, such enticement, ever more frequent, persistent, and shameless, and all that separates the lonely or fatherless boy who manages to grow straight and tall, and one who is led into the depravity of manhood abused, is the chance presence of someone on the lookout at a solitary place or a dangerous time.
Shall we say more? I know a lovely woman whose husband left her and her children for another woman; that story is now as common as dirt. I am sure that Father Martin would not smile upon the abandonment, though he might smile upon the new liaison, the pseudo-marriage, and that is just as bad as far as the abandoned are concerned. They are invisible. It was most fortunate in this case that the woman devoted herself all the more powerfully to the welfare of their children, cheering them on in their sports, hosting parties at her home, and never once distracting herself by the siren call of personal pleasure or a second chance at love. When they were grown, the family home had to be sold, as per a provision in the divorce settlement.
One of her children took his own life.
Shall we say more? Priests have told me that many men who become addicted to pornography—also as common now as dirt, but not nearly so salubrious—seek sexual thrills farther from the bounds of the normal, procuring pictures of children, or engaging in the act with other men. I can explain this only by keeping in mind the depravity of that all-consensual product called porn, and by the example of the Marquis de Sade, who gives us to know that it is not the act that pleases, but its being forbidden, or, as the pelvic Left has it, “transgressive.”
His testimony was confirmed for me by the confession of a young man who longed to return to his faith and to the natural sanity of the human body and its functions. He told me that porn had led him and some of his male friends to sodomize one another, while maintaining the fiction that they were only fooling around. One of those friends has yet to extricate himself from the demonic habit thus developed.
More? Consider the intense loneliness of young men and women who are invisible to the sexual innovators, because they do not parade down Fifth Avenue in orange sequins and jock straps. They are trying to follow the commandments and the natural law. They get no confirmation, no praise, no accompaniment; at best a sniff of condescension. Some will give up on faith and morality, feeling that they have been played for chumps, because the leaders of their former Church evidently do not really believe that sodomy, let alone natural fornication, is wrong. If you really believe that the mushroom is poisonous, you do not serve it at dinner. It is as if sin were not real, but only regarded so; a social pretense, with no connection to the human constitution as created by God.
And more? What hath Kinsey wrought? That fraud and pederast lent a veil of intellectual respectability to all manner of sexual immorality, and mass entertainment followed happily along. Tell us what you see now, Mr. Hefner. Who gives young people the slightest assistance in remaining innocent and clean? I have seen it again and again. Boys and girls blessed with a sweet temperament and parents who love them suddenly reach the whitewater of puberty, and then, far from lending an oar to help, their very schools are like rocks beneath, waiting to rip their canoes clean through. Father Martin will “accompany” them if they fall into a certain form of perversion, accompaniment that costs nothing, a pat on the back after the harm has been done. Who walks with them when the danger first threatens?
Who stands up for the poor against those who ravage the family? Name for me one impoverished or oppressed people in the history of the world who rose to prosperity or who threw off the yoke of their oppressors while living in sexual license and remaining content with the ensuing family chaos. Name one. The Irish were brutalized by the English for three centuries, yet they did not lose the family, and they prevailed. Had my Italian grandfathers been indifferent to the morals of their children, I would not now be writing these words, because only a strong family headed by a good father can channel the energies of a young man with a rebellious streak who is stronger than his mother and smarter than his teachers. No, it is easier to blame a social specter, like an all-pervading racism or the fog of “privilege,” than to reckon with the uncomfortable facts of common observation, biology, and history, and the testimony of every human culture, from stone knives to the microchip.
The western world is dying, literally dying. No one is getting married. Hedonism has led to its own demise; Eros has slain himself on his own altar. Do you wonder, Father Martin, why you do not see boys and girls holding hands? Because the world you bless has raised the stakes too high. They dare not do so; it will be a sign that they are in bed with one another, and embarrassment, if not moral qualms, will keep them from making that sign in public. I could go farther. They do not hold hands, because they do not do much at all with one another anymore; evil has crowded out the good, and spread its pall over what was once innocent and sweet. I know many young people who have never known the delight of that gesture, because all of the beautiful land lying between first sight and marriage has been razed as by nuclear war.
What applies to boys and girls applies in a different way to boys and boys. Many young men are lonely and long for masculine affection, expressed in a healthy way, but they cannot find it, because the visibility of the homosexual life has rendered those longings suspect. Father Martin has nothing to say to them. They too are invisible. Yet it is precisely such young men, whose masculine development has been made needlessly difficult, who have most to say about the peculiar harm wrought by the banners for Sodom—while their foes sneer, and say that they might “really” be homosexual deep down. Get lost, kid, or get to the bathhouse. No sympathy for you.
Or for the father whose teenage son announced, on Thanksgiving, that he was “gay,” causing Father Martin to give glory to God for the boy’s honesty. Such callousness takes the breath away. He does not consider that any decent and responsible father would be devastated by the news. It would be the darkest day of his life. He would know that he and his son had failed, and that his son had already acted upon his confusion; that sodomy had set its tentacles into the son’s soul, that he had done things that disgust a normal man, and that his life henceforward must dabble in disease and decay. Boys do not do with boys what chivalrous young men do for the girls they love, nor do they wait for marriage, for in the marsh of the unnatural there is no need. In Sodom, the acceptable time is always now.
Shall we turn to the poorest among us? What two centuries of slavery and another century of relentless indignities failed to do, the Sexual Revolution accomplished in one generation, the destruction of the black family in the United States. Nor has it reserved its foul work to blacks. It has ruined such families as my grandparents could depend on, when they were mining coal for a pittance in Pennsylvania.
Who could have predicted that license would enslave? Everyone: all the pagan philosophers, even Epicurus; all the prophets, lawgivers, and evangelists in the testaments old and new; all the Fathers of the Church; all the schoolmen, all their enemies among the Renaissance humanists, all the Protestant reformers, all the American founders, even Jefferson, all the Victorian moralists, even the feminist George Eliot, all the popes, especially those who like Leo XIII wrote extensively on the social troubles of the modern world—anyone with eyes and a beating heart.
Father Martin says he is no theologian, but you don’t need theology to see the ruin. I beg him to open his eyes. The single pragmatic question that should guide our course of action is simply this. What customs, and the laws that promote and protect them, give boys and girls the best chance to grow up with a married mother and father committed to one another for life, and to learn the feelings and ways that are natural and normal for their sex, so that they will be attracted and attractive each to the other, and determined to have lifelong marriages of their own in turn? Answer that question first, and then we can figure out what to do for those who fall afoul of nature or the moral law or both. That would be mercy indeed, and not indifference (or complicity) with a grin.