A Princeton law professor has predicted increasing persecution of Catholic teaching on sexuality, amid accusations by a New York scholar that such teaching creates a culture of rape.
In a Jan. 17 email to CNA, Professor Robert George of Princeton University warned of rising oppression against those who oppose a redefinition of marriage.
Such persecution includes an increase in "the use of 'anti-discrimination' laws to violate the freedom of religious institutions and religious individuals to honor their beliefs about marriage and sexual morality,” he said.
George's comments came amid claims by one scholar that Catholic teaching on human sexuality contributed to the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old Indian woman on a Delhi bus one night in December. The woman died from her injuries days after the attack while undergoing treatment in Singapore.
Ian Buruma, who is a professor of democracy, human rights and journalism at Bard College in New York, told CNA on Jan. 21 that Pope Benedict XVI’s “narrow views on proper human relationships reinforce the idea in other, more violent, men that women outside those traditional relationships are 'loose' and thus deserve what is coming to them.”
He argued that the Pope’s tacit criticism of same-sex unions in a Christmas address to the Roman Curia supports sexual aggression and rage by promoting fear of sexual liberty.
While he acknowledged that the Pope’s speech – which was delivered after the violent attack took place – did not directly influence the rapists, Buruma said that “arguments such as the Pope’s reinforce sexual norms that incite men to violence.”
“(T)he rapists, coming from a deeply conservative rural Indian background,” he said, “assumed that the only right place for a young woman was in the family home as a mother and wife.”
Buruma criticized the Holy Father in a Jan. 14th article in the Daily Star for promoting what he described as a culture of rape.
“I would argue that his speech actually encourages the kind of sexual aggression that can result in the savagery that took place in New Delhi,” he wrote.
The professor suggested that restricting sexual activity to heterosexual marriage could prompt sexual repression. “(T)he more sex is repressed and people are made to fear it the greater the chance of sexual violence,” he said.
The address that Buruma referenced, delivered by the Holy Father on Dec. 21, did not specifically reference homosexuality, but rather called for the strengthening of the family.
The Pope warned that the human family is disintegrating – especially in the West – because false understandings of human freedom see sexuality as a mere “social role” to be chosen rather than a biological reality of nature to be accepted.
Describing father, mother and child as “key figures of human existence,” he warned that a distorted understanding of sexuality loses a proper view of male and female as being the foundational “essence of the human creature.”
“The defense of the family is about man himself,” Pope Benedict affirmed.
Scholars in recent months have increasingly warned of persecution for those who do not affirm all sexual practices as being equal.
Professor George cautioned in a July 2012 article for the online journal Public Discourse that anything less than full support of same-sex marriage is increasingly labeled as “bigotry” and is being “eradicated” from the public square.
In his email to CNA, George said that this attitude has already attacked the private sphere.
Business owners, adoption agencies and workers in several states have already been threatened, pushed out of their industries or forced to violate their consciences in order to operate their businesses, he said.
George pointed to public school teachers and government employees who “have been subjected to disciplinary action and threatened with termination of employment” for expressing their biblical views on marriage, even in personal forums such as Facebook.
He added that unless society changes its acceptance of religious beliefs, this trend will likely continue in the future.
“Soon you will see pressure against the tax exempt status of the Catholic Church and other religious organizations that teach that marriage is the conjugal union of husband and wife,” he said, adding that there will also be efforts to deny accreditation to academic institutions “because of their teachings on marriage and sexuality.”