THERE are arguments which go on and on and on. Abortion, for instance. It needs to be put into its wider context of human life, family and parenthood.
By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ
There are at least two ways of understanding human sexuality which are in sharp contrast to each other at present. I do not wish to launch a crusade or engage in ugly polemics.
I merely wish to highlight the difference between sexuality as it was seen before the “sexual revolution” and how it has developed since.
Marriage was linked to procreation. Sexual intercourse of the spouses was meant to give them children to be brought up in a family based on marriage.
Intercourse before marriage was frowned upon. Sexual intimacy for its own sake, excluding children, was known to happen, but children were paramount.
Though there have always been ways and means of preventing pregnancies it was only the hormonal pill of the 1960s that made a breakthrough. The link between sex and fertility, love and children was cut. Even the link between sex and marriage was cut. Sexual intercourse no longer required a personal commitment of the two engaging in it.
It became casual entertainment with no moral demands attached to it and no social obligations in case of pregnancy: the “risk” of falling pregnant had been done away with by the “pill”.
If the woman falls pregnant anyhow, as inevitably happens, then she is to blame. The man feels no responsibility.
Men, therefore, demand intimacy from women as a matter of course, expecting the woman to be “safe”, having the “pill” or condoms on her person at all times.
“Reproductive health”, a key concept of the western “gender ideology”, means among other things complete “sexual freedom”. Rules or demands of a moral nature are out.
Even children can become “sexually active” at whatever age they please. Parents have little control over the lives of their children. Religious influence on sexual behaviour is undesirable, institutions like marriage or family are regarded as quite unnecessary for the pleasure that sex provides. “Sexual activity” has no other purpose.
There are no longer any moral norms concerning sexuality. Young people are only admonished to avoid two things: falling pregnant and /or becoming HIV positive. And they should not do any harm to the partner.
By contrast, the earlier option placed sexual intimacy firmly within marriage which was considered a social contract and as such the basis of the family.
A religious blessing gave marriage a spiritual dimension and made it a Covenant of Love ( a concept no longer used by the ‘gender ideologues’).
Sexual intercourse was expected to be an expression of that personal relationship and mutual commitment.
In this concept sexual intercourse is not an absolute right.
The possible consequences are to be considered which implies the readiness to accept the children conceived.
Even within the camp of those who support marriage and family there has been a development: parents may now determine how many children they want to have and at what time, in line with “responsible parenthood”, a newly developed Christian concept.
Nevertheless, in principle children are welcome since love goes together with fruitfulness. Children are the visible outcome of their parents’ love.
A child in his/her mother’s womb is a human being, from the moment of conception, not just a “fetus” considered part of the mother’s body and removable like an appendix.
The father is responsible for that child that is his as much as the mother’s. Their love of one another must show itself also in the common love of the child. Such parents do not seek abortion.
“Sexual freedom” does not prepare for acceptance of the child. If a woman in a casual relationship falls pregnant she may want to do away with the “pregnancy” (she will not call it “a child” – language here is very revealing!). Or the man responsible forces her to do so.
Offspring was even more important in traditional marriage and family life. Casual relationships were frowned upon. Children from such unions would have no recognised father, no “mutupo” (“totem”), and no place in the clan.
A barren wife could be divorced, or she would have to share her husband with a second wife in a polygamous union, a custom continuing nowadays in “small houses” (concubines).
Which system do we want to adopt for the future? A family culture based on marriage? Or complete “sexual freedom”?
We have a choice. And we must decide. And be clear about the consequences of whatever we decide. We must face this choice with great honesty.
At the moment there is little honesty. What is the point of a civil or even church marriage, while continuing to claim “sexual freedom”?
We want the cake and eat it too, we want family life which is our culture, without the fidelity and self-restraint necessary for family life and marriage as its basis to flourish.
We abhor abortion because our culture loves children and respects life, but we do not give children the necessary environment of parents in love with each other and families which radiate warmth and provide security.
The inherited structured relationship between man and woman, called marriage, is presently also endangered by our economic failure which forces marriage partners into migration.
The State should support and protect families by providing the economic basis for them. But it is a “failed state” in this respect too.
If we, on the one hand, decide to follow much of global society and opt for unrestrained “sexual freedom”, then let us be clear about this: it will mean the end of family life as we have known it.
It will subject women to a strict regime of contraception with all the side effects this will entail. It will cause more and more children in the womb to be denied the gift of life.
This is not to say that the movement that brought about the “sexual revolution” was just the devil’s work.
Women had the right to question their role as producers of offspring for the clan, or as “comfort women” always available for the “master” in his weak moments.
Instead they have the right to claim full personhood as mothers raising families (which are not just the private property of men!), or as persons in their own right who may use their gifts and talents for a leading role in wider society.
The human person is entrusted to woman from the moment of conception. She has a responsibility for that person in her womb, and at her breast , which no one can take from her. This the women’s movement overlooked.
Her role as wife must be one of partnership with her husband, their union must be one of mutual love and respect, if marriage is to continue to be the foundation stone of the family and of society as a whole.
In other words, if we decide to retain our family culture we will only retain it by changing it. We need to transform it into one that is founded on the personhood of man and woman in equal measure.
The choice is yours.
Fr Oskar Wermter SJ is a social commentator