A few days ago, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence sent out a message that within living memory absolutely no mother or father, liberal or conservative, Christian or Jewish or secular, or anyone old or young would have considered to be controversial.
He said, gently, that it was not good for parents to take their children to a so-called "Pride" parade. For anyone who has been bowling with dwarfs along the Hudson for twenty years, these are parades to celebrate sexual perversion. Inevitably there will be some men marching in jockstraps, simulating sodomy, and barely clad women bidding defiance to "the patriarchy," which they thereby imply is coextensive with ordinary human nature.
I do not know what there is to be proud of, even in the non-theological sense of the word. Should we go to a parade for payday lenders who ruin their borrowers? A parade of men and women carrying chainsaws, to honor their having sawed their families in two? Festal politicians, lying to all and some? Fornicators, male and female, half naked and crying out, "We'll get married when we damned well want"? Blasphemers with bullhorns? Brothers and sisters who hate one another, sneering? For what other sin or temptation to sin do we throw a party? Shall everyone dress in green in honor of the goddess Invidia, looking askance at the world? Or be carried along on floats in various shades of gray, with half of the paraders muttering, "I'm too busy to give a damn," and the other half carping, "I don't give a damn to be busy"?
Of course children should not go to a Pride parade, just as they should not be looking at pornography, or being made to think about what grown-ups do in bed. What do you call somebody who wants to tell other people's children about those things? What do you do when you find out that the dirty old man down the street has been talking to kids about sex—even if he has used their own schoolbooks to do it? Old man, meet the police.
Bishop Tobin was promptly and viciously attacked on social media, and one priest in the diocese got out his sacerdotal kneepads and fairly pleaded with his flock—spoiled brats, I suppose—not to leave the Church because of what the bishop had said.
Replace "the bishop" with "Jesus":
"You have heard that it was said to the ancients, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you that anyone who so much as looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt. 5:27-28).
"It was said moreover, whoever puts away his wife, let him give her a written notice of dismissal. But I say to you that everyone who puts away his wife, save on account of immorality, causes her to commit adultery; and he who marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery" (Mt. 5:31-32).
"Do you not realize that whatever enters the mouth passes into the belly and is cast out into the drain? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and it is they that defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, immorality, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies" (Mt. 15:17-19).
Of course children should not go to a Pride parade, just as they should not be looking at pornography, or being made to think about what grown-ups do in bed.
"And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Mt. 18:5-6).
"Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore, they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt. 19:4-6).
And, when he wants an exemplar of remarkable wickedness: "And thou, Capharanaum, shalt thou be exalted to heaven? Thou shalt be thrust down to hell! For if the miracles had been worked in Sodom that have been worked in thee, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for thee" (Mt. 11:23-24).
That's just the gospel of Matthew. It is true that Jesus does not regard the sexual sins as the worst of all, and nor does the Church. But to say that one lethal thing is not as bad as another lethal thing, and to soothe your conscience with that knowledge, is to spread honey upon poison. It does not matter what your opinion of the poison is; It works its harm regardless. That is what we Catholics understand by a moral law. It is a force. Touch that high voltage wire and you will be electrocuted. Step off the ledge of a twentieth-story window and you will fall to your death. Respect the law, work with the law, as God gives you the grace to do so, and you can use the fall of water to fill a city with light. Virtue is a power, like health in the body. It restrains you from corrupting yourself, and it gives you the strength to do good and great things, things that people riddled with vice can hardly conceive, just as a cripple cannot know what it is like to climb a mountain.
Bishop Tobin is preaching to moral cripples who cannot see that the innocence of children must be guarded, and that the natural family must be protected, affirmed, honored, and empowered. In the past, liberal Americans didn't just concede these things. They insisted upon them, not least because the family is the main source of capital—moral, personal, fiduciary, and financial—of the poor. This is not the best reason why we should defend the family, but it is a good reason nonetheless.
Of course the bishop needed to be reminded that the Catholic Church permitted priests to abuse children, and so, they said, who is he to talk? We had better accustom ourselves to this charge, and remind ourselves every day that to try to hide scandalously wicked behavior is like putting a bandage over an ulcerated wound. The infection sets down roots and spreads, and when you finally begin to treat it, it stinks to high heaven.
What was so terrible, so disgusting, so shameful? The very same act that you are celebrating in the parade.
The people making the charge are hypocrites, no doubt. The clerical scandal has been their favorite Christmas present. I do not say that they wanted children to be abused—at least not those children. I mean that the wicked priests have given them a cover for their own favorite sexual sins. And let me state without equivocation that children are ultimately the victims of all sexual sins, because all those sins strike right at the heart of the family. Divorce, adultery, fornication, pornography, and sodomy—all expose mankind to the tornados of lust, and all deny the fundamental principles of sexual morality. Man is man and woman is woman, each is for the other in marriage, and both together for the children they may have, if God so blesses them.
And what sense does it make to rebel against the Church, as the wicked priests themselves did, and pretend to avenge the abused children by exposing other children to the same kinds of action, i.e., the same perversions? Is anyone courageous enough to pull up the gay carpet and see what lies beneath? Gay men are powerfully attracted to teenage boys. How many of them marching down that street know friends and acquaintances who have done things with such? Every one of them, I will wager. And again I ask people to tell me what they believe was so dreadful about what the homosexual priests did to boys, from the vantage of the boy victim and not the perpetrator. Do try to use your imagination. Spare us the abstract chatter about "power differential" and "age differential." Spare us the political. Spare us your theories about what constitutes consent. These are diversions from the main thing—the deed itself. Spare us the false suggestion that the priests used physical force. Most did not. Most of them were seducers. What was so terrible, so disgusting, so shameful? The very same act that you are celebrating in the parade.
Our sins are a stinking heap. Let us get that into our heads. We have nothing to be proud of. We cry out to God for healing and forgiveness, and he gives us what we ask. Or we do not cry out, but rather stand on our self-righteousness. A rickety float that.
Anthony Esolen. "Bishop Tobin Attacked for Speaking a Plain Truth." Crisis (June 4, 2019).
Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine.
Anthony Esolen is a professor and writer in residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, in Warner, New Hampshire. He is the author of many books including: Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, The Beauty of the Word: A Running Commentary on the Roman Missal, Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, Reflections on the Christian Life, Ironies of Faith: Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, and is the translator of several epic poems of the West, including Lucretius' On the Nature of Things: de Rerum Natura, Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata, and the three volumes of Dante's Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. He is a graduate of Princeton and the University of North Carolina. Anthony Esolen is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.Copyright © 2019 Crisis
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