The Future of Humanity Passes by Way of the Family (Part 2 of 2)

19 January 2023

6.2 MINS

Although modern Western society may seem to be crumbling around us, we have cause for hope that there will be a revival of Godly living and healthy family life as people begin to discern the destructive lies of the Sexual Revolution.

This article is Part 2 of 2. Read Part 1 here.

In this second part of her address on October 25, 2022, at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne, American Catholic author and social commentator Mary Eberstadt reminds us that there is always hope, as a look at the history of renewal and reform movements shows.

Mary Eberstadt is the author of many articles on the decline of the family in the West as well as several books, including Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, How the West Really Lost God and Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics.

Never Despair of Renewal

But there is hope. And the case for hope begins, paradoxically, in the social destruction all around us that Humanae Vitae rightly warned about. History shows that social degradation has existed during other eras, often when society was on the verge of great renewal and reform movements.

The so-called “gin alleys” of 18th-century London gave rise to Victorian moral renewal. The United States has been home to a series of religious awakenings sparked by people who wanted to help others live a more human life.

Moral renaissance happens — and it happens all the time, because human nature is not simply animal nature. The U.S. social awakening that became the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is one more example in which religious conviction challenged a toxic social order; priests and nuns and pastors were on its frontlines.

One more reason for hope is that men and women throughout history have turned to Christianity for refuge and fellowship and a home – because they can’t find refuge and fellowship and a home anywhere else. The same is true today. The overbearing, secularist culture increasingly averse to Christianity is itself drawing people to God.

From the point of view of those who defend the Church, I believe the question of what we are to do amounts to a two-word answer: don’t capitulate. Don’t soft-pedal Church teachings about the family at a time when their truth is being highlighted as never before, including inadvertently.

The arguments for standing tall are several: social, historical, moral, and theological.

First, to the social argument. Even if we were cavalierly and wholly unconcerned with theological truth, backpedalling on the traditional defence of marriage is bad for society. That is why I have emphasised the small mountain of social science out there. The fracturing of the family has empowered the predatory and further hurt the weak, including, most of all, children.

Christians do not want to send the signal that the fate of the weak is a matter of indifference. Nor does the Church want to send the signal to married people who may already be struggling that their sacrifice is now less valuable than has been held for two thousand years.

History Speaks

The historical argument is also clear. The historical fact is that, even if the Church could jettison parts of the moral code, and draw the smiley face that embarrassed Christians would prefer to draw over it, that capitulation would not help the Church. In fact, history shows the opposite: it would hurt the Catholic Church, exactly as it has hurt the Protestant churches that have been running exactly that experiment for decades now.

The churches that did most to loosen up the traditional moral code of Christianity are the same churches that have ended up suffering most for that effort — demographically, financially, morale-wise, and otherwise.

Some are on the brink of actual extinction. As a 2011 article in the Independent put it, speaking the thought for many: “Will the last person to leave the Church of England please turn out the lights?” It is a question into which other church names will soon be substituted.

Conversely, this is not a question anyone asks about certain other churches that have not rejected the traditional moral code, but have instead held it more or less fast — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for example; or the traditional-minded evangelical churches; or the Pentecostals; or the Anglican churches of what is now called the Global South.

Succumbing to the temptation to abandon Church teaching about family and sex has also weakened these churches demographically. Ignoring the injunction to be fruitful and multiply has resulted in greying parishioners and empty pews across the Western world. It has weakened them financially, as the failure of worshippers to replace themselves has left those churches with an ever-shrinking base of contributors — the same problem facing the West’s aging welfare states. And it has weakened the same churches in a wider sense of mission and morale.

The moral argument for standing firm likewise could not be more obvious. The Church today is being asked to have mercy on people who struggle when they are living outside the Church’s code, and often in outright defiance of it. But this request for mercy surely must not trump other requests — for starters, mercy towards the children whose lives will be better off if their parents make the continual sacrifice of staying together. Or mercy towards the souls who will be misled, and jeopardised, by authorities who treat sin as if it is not sin.

Cloud of Witnesses

Finally, there is the mercy owed to human beings who are drawn into the Church precisely because of that code itself, who find in it a lifesaver and not a noose, who are firm in the conviction that their own very salvation depends upon it.

These now include former victims of the Sexual Revolution — the walking wounded coming in and out of those proverbial field hospitals, the people who are believers not because they want to jettison the Christian moral code, but because they want to do something more radical: own it. The Church of today and tomorrow is being built more and more by these very witnesses.

Many of these plead openly that the Church keeps being a sign of contradiction. These are witnesses who must be heard at an hour when the Church has put questions of the family front and centre, and who are terribly demoralised when other Christians act as if those moral teachings they bravely defend are on the wrong side of history.

There are people like Anny Donewald, a former prostitute recently profiled in Christianity Today, who has gone on to found a ministry for other women — Eve’s Angels — exploited by the so-called adult entertainment industry. There are organisations like the Catholic group Courage and others that do good, despite the non-stop recriminations aimed at them.

And there are witnesses elsewhere too. I think of two men who attended a conference on the social costs of pornography a few years back. Each testified before scores of strangers about what pornography had cost him personally — mainly, the loss of love. They are witnesses to the wreckage of the Sexual Revolution, and exceptionally courageous ones.

All these men and women and many others like them are living, human signs of contradiction to the times, and most especially to the new intolerance. They are part of the growing coalition of people who defend faith in all its thorniness not because they have known nothing else, but precisely because they do know the Revolution and reject its promises as false.

They have nowhere else to go but the Church — and the Church cannot abandon these people struggling to be redeemed and stay redeemed without ceasing to be the Church.

Christianity has faced enormous obstacles throughout history. The mere fact that the Roman Empire ended up largely Christian speaks to the resilience and suppleness and, it should be said, divine favour of the Church. The success of missionaries in bringing that faith to people who believed differently in almost every language on earth is also testimony to the ability of the faith to speak across time and culture straight to the human heart.

It is also true that, one by one, the overt tormentors of the faithful, and most of all those who claimed to have the mantle of history itself on their shoulders, have themselves ended up as history’s rejects. The Reformation didn’t kill the Church. The French Revolution couldn’t kill the Church. Global Marxism-Leninism, with which Christianity contended over the past century, couldn’t either.

Looked at that way, it may seem absurd to wonder whether the Sexual Revolution could inadvertently accomplish what overt adversaries could not. And yet the question is not so absurd. Unlike communism, the threat posed by the Revolution is not contained within geographical bounds. It operates within Western societies. It is the force that drives every religious-liberty case today, and the many to come — because these cases all amount to a battle over one thing only, which is the Sexual Revolution and the silencing of its critics.

How wonderful that the Church has stood on the right side of this fight unflinchingly, and for so long. What a tragedy it would be for the entire world if at this very moment, Christians themselves were somehow not to understand that vindication of longstanding teaching.

So, let us do everything in our power to tell those truths for the sake of restoring at least some of what has been lost.

Let us celebrate in the right way, and with gratitude, the Church that has done more than any force on earth to protect and defend the structure in which human beings thrive earliest and most: the family.


Originally published in News Weekly. Photo by Kampus Production.


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