While fighting both Nazism and Communism in Vienna in the years 1933 to 1934, Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote an article, the truth of which is more needed today than eighty years ago. He refers to a progressive erosion of our moral sense. What horrified people at one time, no longer has the same effect after a few years. People get used to brutality, to racism, to injustice, to the public display of pornography. Their strong response when these evils start raising their heads is replaced by remarks such as “We live in an unjust and imperfect world,” but, “we should be compassionate.”
However, the moral call to oppose these iniquities no longer resounds in them.
Once this stage is reached, the moment is ripe for more violations of the natural law: the key is to introduce changes gradually and convince the public that there are insignificant. It was, I believe, Luther who told his followers that changes in the Holy Mass should be introduced slowly, one at a time. Too sudden a change would alert people to the danger.
Let me be more concrete; when divorce was legalized, therefore shaking the very foundation of any sound society based on marriage and the family, people were shocked. But after a while divorce inevitably spread like wild fire. Why seek reconciliation, a better modus vivendi, when the state offers an easy solution: radical separation with the possibility of another marriage that might be more “fulfilling.” After all, is it not man’s right to “pursue happiness”? The percentage of divorces was bound to keep increasing. Once the very foundation of society was shattered, time was ripe for the next step: contraception.
Up to 1930 Protestants were radically opposed to it. To the horror of the Catholic world, the Lambeth Conference in England declared that contraception was legitimate in certain cases. Once again it could be foreseen that as soon as “a slit of the door was opened,” this moral aberration would gain more and more adherents and this in spite of the solemn teaching of the Catholic Church which remained faithful to the natural and divine moral teaching. Some Catholics caught the disease and started endorsing this immoral practice, claiming that love between the spouses justified it. The desire for union had absolute priority. They started denying that the union of love between the spouses was necessarily bound to their openness to procreation. The essential bond between love and fruitfulness was simply willfully ignored.
Every sin brings about its own punishment; inevitably pleasure became the dominating motivation of the spouses. But whereas love unites, pleasure carries in its very nature the germs of separation.
However, contraception does not always work. If, in spite of “precautions,” when a wife finds herself pregnant, abortion seems to be a legitimate means of solving the problem. This view had, of course, been long endorsed and practiced in “affairs” between the sexes outside of marriage. A huge campaign backed up by the news media finally convinced very many people that abortion was legitimate and even called for. An unwanted child was a doomed child; it indeed was “more loving” to prevent it from entering into a world that would reject it.
After all, an unborn something is not a human being: it is a fetus, it is a sort of “tumor” that had invaded a woman’s womb and had no right to encumber it. Moreover, abortion was widely practiced, and unless it had a legal protection, innumerable women would pay with their lives for falling into the hands of quacks that were charging high fees, while not being properly qualified.
Roe vs. Wade finalized the deal on Jan. 22, 1972. It was legalized and therefore “morally” acceptable. Legal became identified with moral. The moment that “love” (in whatever meaning) was cut off from procreation, those in favor of same-sex unions saw that their hour had come. Up to that time, their practices had been kept secret. Lamenting the fact that this practice could not be totally eliminated, Plato, in the third century B.C. urged its adherents to “keep it concealed.” (The Laws, Book VIII) There always has been and always will be homosexuality, but there is a world of difference, between its contra naturam practices implicitly and explicitly condemned by “society,” and an open declaration that homosexuality was only doing – in its own way – what was now recognized to be fully legitimate: namely union at the exclusion of procreation.
That gay couples cannot procreate was always the argument used to oppose their life style. In fact, they were ahead of their time: now the overwhelming majority of people fully acknowledge the meaningfulness of union at the exclusion of procreation. Love fully justified these practices which Plato calls “against nature.” He wisely insists that the word “love” is an equivocal term, and that, alas, the craving for such unions is to be explained by what he calls “unbridled lust.” (Laws, 418) Feminism played the devil’s game: how unfair that the “weaker sex” has been denied a role in society because they were “tied” by KKK (the German for Kueche, Kinder, Kirche – Kitchen, Children, Church) and could not develop their rich talents, depriving the modern world of crucial female contributions to “progress.”
Homosexuality gained popularity. How unfair it has been to condemn the practice simply because it was not our cup of tea. People have different tastes, and individual preferences should be respected in a democratic society. Whether in heterosexual or homosexual relationships, union was sought as an expression of love. Who is to determine the particular form that it should take?
From there, the time was ripe for the claim that same sex couples, too, had a right to get married. Why not? At first the majority of people were horrified, but with the help of news media and clever propaganda it inevitably became an acceptable claim. Several states put homosexual “marriages” on their agenda, and year after year more of them honored this type of “love union.” The final blow was given when the President of the United States publicly endorsed their claim. Had something similar ever taken place in the history of the world? A century ago, millions and millions of U.S. citizens would have raised their voice in protest. The moment was “ripe” and President Obama knew so well that he made this proclamation the very year he was hoping to be re-elected. He knew he was “safe.”
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day was abolished in many places as “discriminatory” and more and more children found out that they had two daddies and two mommies. Once again, the popularity of this moral perversion opened the door to the endorsement of more diabolical suggestions. Why should elderly people afflicted by incurable diseases that cost “society’ huge amount of money be kept alive? Was it a sound “social practice” to waste time, money and energies on hopeless cases? Would it not be more “charitable” to let them die “with dignity?” Only those who have never worked in hospitals truly know how agonizing the last months, weeks and hours of a person is who is afflicted by cancer. Assisted suicide is a solution which has all the marks of “compassion,” kindness, and pity. Euthanasia, severely condemned and rejected years ago, is now perfectly acceptable. It is legalized in many countries, including what used to be Catholic Belgium. Let us recall the case of the husband who won his case in front of the Courts, which allowed him to let his wife starve to death. We can raise the question of whether giving her a lethal injection would have been more “compassionate.” Starvation is well known to be a refined form of torture.
Our brave new world puts all its hope in “science” - which will prove to be our savior of the world. Through its constant mind-boggling discoveries it will inevitably lead one day to an earthly paradise, where sickness and death are ostracized from the human vocabulary. Man will gain “immortality” by his own genius, as prophesized by one of my Hunter students years ago. Already little children are taught that scientific proofs alone give us certainly. The words “scientific” and “scholarly” are now received with the awe that the word “saint” had in the Middle Ages. It is the “holy” calling of politicians and people in leading positions to encourage “research.” They are hopelessly behind the time. This has led to an enthusiastic endorsement of embryonic stem cell research. It is “immoral’ to impede progress.
One cannot help but raise the question: Why doesn’t the news media advertise that the placenta, ejected from a mother’s body after birth, can and does lead to amazing cures? It is to be thrown out, and yet “science” is showing how beneficial it can be.
When abortion was declared legal, it was at first limited to the first months of pregnancy. Once again, the door was opened and the date was extended further and further until finally it was legitimized until the final month. Better than that: there were cases where the safer way of delivery was “partial birth abortion”: when the baby was half out of its mother’s body and when his skull was squashed.
Once people head down a slippery slope, their trajectory can be predicted with “scientific” accuracy. Soon everything, absolutely everything, become acceptable, if it is presented as “scientific” and would lead to the benefit of society. The First Commandment should yield the pride of place it has enjoyed since Mount Sinai and be replaced by “social concerns.”
The moral decay has become so radical that the moment is ripe to make suggestions, namely that “scientists’ praising the nutritive value of a tiny baby start a campaign to convince the court that abortion should be delayed until the sixth and seven months, and then performed. Our society is “re cycling” concerned: once a baby is fully formed, it is indeed a pity – in a world in which so many people are on food stamps, and not properly nourished, to “waste’ a rich harvest of delicious protein that a baby’s aborted baby can provide. What about having a special section in new healthcare programs to guarantee that special butchers would be trained to used these inert little bodies and offer them free to those in need.
Abortion has then a double positive effect: save the mother’s life and feed the hungry.
Some might exclaim in horror: this is cannibalism. The counter argument is obvious: That would be true if a human being were killed for the exclusive purpose of eating its flesh. But this is not the case: first of all, the unborn baby has been denied being a “human being.” Moreover, it is killed for a noble purpose: save the life of the mother. At this point, it seems not only very “socially minded” but highly reasonable that the young flesh of aborted babies should be “recycled” and given to those who cannot afford expensive steaks.
Why not? Is this suggestion an impossibility? It is only a small step further on the road of radical moral erosion. Now Dietrich von Hildebrand’s words shortly before his death ring true: “Hitler won the war.”
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.