Dec 13, 2012
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.