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Voices Online Edition
Fall 2000, Volume XV, No. 3 - Jubilee Year
What happens to society when we disrupt the natural order of creation?
by Rita Joseph
Deconstructing the Family
Today all over the world, radical feminism is busy deconstructing the natural order. An errant philosophy has taken hold that all history is constructed, that there is no single true history, no single truth, that all societies, all systems of law are mere constructs; they may be deconstructed and reconstructed differently.
Around the world, legislatures, judiciaries and the media are also caught up in this nonsense, all in a ludicrous attempt to free human activity from the moral constraints of the natural law. Even fundamental institutions like marriage and the family are being ordered differently, experimentally.
Perhaps the most disturbing of all is the push to sever "recreational" or "fun" aspects of sexual intercourse from the serious responsibilities of procreation. Indeed, the last decades of the 20th century have seen determined and ingenious attempts to disconnect sexuality from family formation. Around the world, in order to be "freed from unwanted fertility", the healthy reproductive systems of more than a billion women are being deconstructed or reconstructed differently with contraceptives, or surgery. Every year, while a fast-growing team of IVF technicians construct tens of thousands of unnatural pregnancies, an army of abortionists deconstruct some forty-five million pregnancies.
Often in the same hospitals, depending on which room and which womb, new life is deliberately created and new life deliberately destroyed. And amidst all this, sexual aberrations and moral disorders are being proclaimed as human rights, as experts in deconstructionism declare with great certainty "There is no natural order"! Nonsense, of course. We have only to step outside on an evening and look up at the stars just a little of the awesome miracle of order that has make life on earth possible. We see everywhere God's dazzling creativity, an infinite talent for brilliant, unerring design. Some 18 billion years ago, as near as 20th century physicists can make it out, space, time and matter came from nowhere and from nothing into existence in a singular burst of light that was at one and the same time fortuitously and precisely calculated to bring forth carbon-based life.
This universe, or at least the part we know, was made to order, with stunning precision ordered that human beings might live. Had our earth's orbit or tilt or force of gravity, or any one of countless other attributes of earth and its universe been ever so slightly different, we would not be here. And the question arises: is it probable that in so finely wrought a universe, we alone are completely free of law, free to live in moral lawlessness, to be a law unto ourselves? Radical feminists today answer "Yes"; and their infamous "right to choose" has unleashed anti-family forces of formidable destructiveness.
True, we are creatures of free will, but because God has endowed us also with intellect, we know that we must make rational, moral choices - choices that line up our will with God's Will - choices that respect the absolutes of the universal moral law and that are logically consistent with natural law.
Look around us. All the earth obeys the Lord. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; the trees, rivers, the crops, the birds of the air, the animals of the wild, the creatures of the deep. Everywhere is intricate, ordered ecology, a pattern of obedience, for our good will towards God's will. The generation of each new human being calls for our cooperation with the creator. Each human life is a unique unrepeatable gift from the Lord.
There is a genuine human ecology, an ecology protecting the family based on marriage, an ecology in which the mutual gift of the man and the woman creates a climate of love wherein the child can be born and grow. It is an ecology receptive to life, an ecology that can have no place for the moral disorder of contraception, or for the abominable crime of abortion.
Yet for much of human society today, there is no understanding of this ecology. Everywhere there is a growing perversity that refuses to acknowledge the fundamental order of things. Emerging is a recklessly foolish bloody-mindedness that scoffs at the age-old moral absolutes, that refuses to face the true consequences of defying the natural order. Feminist arrogance goes on insisting that women today must have more choices. There's a kind of collector's fanaticism for acquiring choices, but without the collector's discernment for what's genuine and what's counterfeit.
There is the fanatic's insistence that all possible choice be made available, irrespective of the consequences. New counterfeit choices, new emergency contraceptives, new abortion pills, new vaccines against pregnancy (as through it were some ghastly diseases): all of these are being developed for women, by ideologically driven United Nations (UN) bodies, and sold dishonestly as new international human rights.
I have attended many UN conferences and I have witnessed at these meetings a sustained attempt to compromise the fundamental basis of human rights, the inherent and inviolable dignity of every person. In particular I have seen the development of an exceedingly clever campaign to obliterate the human rights of the unborn child. I have witnessed also a bold attack on rights of conscience and on religious freedoms.
In particular, I have seen attacks on the freedom of health-care providers to refuse to perform abortions; attacks on the rights of parents to raise their children in the fullness of their own faith and morals, in particular, to teach them that abortion, contraception and sterilization are wrong, that promiscuity is wrong, that homosexual partners cannot marry. What I have seen is the trivialization and distortion of fundamental meaning of sexual relations and roles, of the dignity and value of marriage, of motherhood and of fatherhood, and their critical importance to social sustainability.
Yet there is no other way, no alternative lifestyle capable of maintaining a coherent and stable society. There is no alternative morality, no alternative method of family formation capable of protecting the most vulnerable in human society. At the heart of any caring, stable society is the practice of ordering sexuality towards the service of the family and the community.
Responsible sexuality adheres to three essentials: sexual relations must be based on truly tender love; on truly faithful love; and on truly intimate love. And this love must all come together in the deep, irrevocable commitment of marriage. Prostitution, IVF, divorce, pornography, homosexuality, promiscuity, abortion and contraception all of these things violate one or all of the essentials at best, they can only simulate true intimacy, tenderness and fidelity. It is a curious paradox that , everywhere, physical sexuality is being displayed, promoted, yet perversely the real and full meaning of human sexuality is being trivialized.
Displays of physical sexuality pervade society: the media, the cinema, literature, drama, education and politics. All are saturated with sexual innuendo and graphic eroticism bent on destroying intimacy and mocking fidelity and tenderness. In sexual relations, the unspeakable has become commonplace; and it is increasingly difficult to foster in our children the normal protective mechanisms of childhood innocence.
Moral and Social Coherence
There can be no doubt that late 20th century attitudes towards family and sexuality are threatening the moral and social coherence of our communities. I want you to consider for a moment an interesting idea put forward by Professor Leon Kass: that we ignore at our peril the role of natural human repugnance as a protective mechanism for our societies. In an excellent article "The Wisdom of Repugnance": in the New Republic, Professor Kass, addressing the issue of human cloning, says that repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason's power fully to articulate it. Beginning with the natural and social anthropology of sexual reproduction he says: "Human societies virtually everywhere have structured child rearing responsibilities and systems of identity and relationship on the bases of these deep natural facts of begetting. The mysterious yet ubiquitous love of one's own is everywhere culturally exploited to make sure that children are not just produced but cared for and to create for everyone clear ties of meaning, belonging and obligation".
But, he says, it is wrong to treat such naturally rooted social practices as mere cultural constructs that we can alter with little human cost. He warns us to resist those who have begun to refer to sexual reproduction as the traditional method of reproduction, who would have us regard as merely traditional, and by implication arbitrary, what is in truth not only natural but most certainly profound.
It seems to me that at least some strands of human right education and sex education today are undertaking the elimination of natural repugnance towards abortion, homosexual practices, and the whole tacky range of fertility regulating procedures being sold to women and adolescents. Sophisticated sexual health programs are being designed quite specifically to eliminate the cultural, social, and religious barriers to dubious new and existing methods of fertility regulation, to hitherto illicit sexual practices, to promiscuity and pornography. These mega-marketing programs produce a manipulated consent.
In effect, education programs are now tampering with the deep natural facts of begetting. The human cost is incalculable, immense. Society has always been able to accommodate a few aberrations, but if those aberrations become a critical mass, then the center cannot hold order caves in to chaos. This is the very real danger confronting any society when it endorses for any significantly growing number of people patterns of living that defy the natural order.
Basic moral values
Consider the growing numbers of single-parent families. As Washington columnist Charles Krauthammer has written: "Illegitimacy is the royal road to poverty and all its attendant pathologies. In a competitive economy and corrupting culture, it is hard enough to raise a child with two parents. To succeed with only one requires heroism on the part of the young mother. Heroism is not impossible. But no society can expect it as the norm. And any society that does is inviting social catastrophe of the kind now on view in the inner cities of America". Social catastrophe, we know, is not confined to the inner cities of America. The whole of Western society is affected: there is considerable doubt as to whether we share any longer a core group of basic moral values.
We are a society that has abandoned reasonableness and logical consistency, two very important structural principles of the natural law.
A pluralist society
Priding ourselves on being a pluralist society, we have settled for a bumble bath of conflicting ideologies and philosophies. We have violated intellectual integrity in order to endorse multiplicity of choice. When a society is no longer willing to uphold family unity, or to condemn pornography, or to ordain natural maternal care as best for its babies, it is a foolish society. It is a society that has lost its capacity for rational thought and for the rigorous logic that dictates fundamental natural moral imperatives. It is rational thought and rigorous logic, not sexism or homophobia, that forces us to recognize that certain things men and women may want to do have unacceptable consequences. It is reason that brings us to a recognition of the prescriptive natural laws that are particularly relevant to sexuality, reproduction and the raising of children, and that rule out abortion, adultery, lying and sodomy. These acts are always and everywhere wrong, just as it is always and everywhere right for the young of the human species to be born into families.
There is a universal positive natural law affirming that it is good for each of us to live in a family. For despite the odd regional or historical aberration, the family is the common life of a man and a woman in lawful union together with their children. At the heart of the modern rejection of traditional family values is a yen for freedom untrammeled by natural law. But we have failed to grasp one of the central paradoxes of human endeavor: that freedom can operate only within order, that your personal freedom depends on my self-discipline.
Self-indulgence leads to chaos, and in chaos there is much fear, much injustice, and woefully inadequate protection for the vulnerable, for the old, the weak and the very young. Contemporary forces pressuring governments to redefine the family are essentially destructive anti-social forces risking chaos; for example, the growing movement for homosexuals to be allowed to adopt children. This kind of social experimentation lacks prudence, for it would use children as experimental objects towards others' ends.
We have all grasped the concept of social justice. But it seems incredible how few understand the prior concept of social prudence. Prudence, says Aristotle, is the charioteer of the other virtues. Aquinas says "Moral virtue cannot be without prudence because it is a habit of choosing, i.e. making us choose well." And it appears to me that much of the experimentation in family formation misses the fundamental conceptual difference between gambling and choosing, between gambling with a child's future and choosing rationally to secure a child's future.
Gambling, to be sure, gives a beguiling sense of power and excitement, but it runs counter to the natural law principles that we must be accountable for the consequences of our actions, and that we must not ignore the goodness of any of the basic values. (The basic value most relevant here is the natural endowment of each child with parents of the opposite sex).
A sense of biological parenthood is important for natural family bonding. Benedict Ashley argues that the sense of actual flesh-and-blood relationship is even more important for the physical and psychological security of a child than a permanent, socially recognized and honorable commitment between the parents. For while commitment depends on the variable will of the couple, flesh and blood is something tangible and irrevocable.
Forceful groups that are pushing female-headed families, homosexual marriage and adoption rights, de facto arrangements, serial marriage and divorce are opponents of the family. There is a sense in which such groups can function only with some degree of hypocrisy. They prize their sexual freedom but they refuse to acknowledge that their freedom to thwart moral laws relies on the order being maintained, on others continuing to obey those laws. Their ability to be immoral or even amoral in relative safety and comfort relies on others continuing to be moral. They rely on families who respect the moral law to hold the natural order against the tide of chaos.
There is no such thing as a laissez-faire civilization. Tolerance is a fine ideal when we are dealing with harmless differences. But there is no virtue in tolerating evil. On the contrary, there is complicity. The story of Adam and Eve and choosing from the Tree of Knowledge has, I believe, more relevance today than ever before in man's history.
Whether we believe it really happened or view it rather as some quaint fable, we can hardly fail to recognize the current significance of the warning offered by this primeval experience or cautionary tale. For never before have we had such unrestricted access to choices that are proving so dangerously unmanageable. Technological prowess is fast outstripping our capacity to understand the social and ethical consequences of what we know how to do. We must choose more carefully what we want to know. But researchers even now are reaching for a whole new bag of dubious fruits such as male pregnancy, ontogenesis, and embryo eugenics, fruits that they must know we haven't a hope of being able to handle wisely.
Many scientists appear to labor under the misapprehension that knowledge is some finite pool which must all be revealed sooner or later: the order of selection is irrelevant it's all only a matter of time. This is arrogant nonsense. Knowledge is infinite, and if man lives another billion years on this earth, he will still not have plumbed the depths or reached the perimeters of all there is to know. He must still choose what he wants to know and these choices will still retain significance for how he is to live and what he is to become.
It is vital to remember that while lobby groups can change our state and national and international laws, there is no one, there is nothing, that can change the natural law. It is written indelibly in the human heart. No United Nations body, no Human Rights Commission, no Law Reform Society, no Doctors' Reform society, not any emergency, crisis, catastrophe, or other conceivable set of circumstances, can erase or alter one jot, any part of that law. The natural law remains universally applicable till the end of time. As Aquinas says, "...every human law has just so much of the nature of law, it is derived from the law of nature. But if at any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law". Or as Abraham Lincoln once said more simply, "There is no law that can give me the right to do what is wrong."
We need to remember this: that when man's time on earth comes to an end, the overwhelmingly significant factor for mankind will not be the chronological period throughout which we managed to clutch onto existence, but rather the morality of the methods by which we held on. There may be some here who recognize abortion and eugenics to be ignoble methods for enhancing human survival but can see no harm in contraception. Yet acceptance of abortion is logically implicit in the acceptance of contraception. To approve contraception is to approve in principle abortion. It is to will the same principle, to propound the same philosophy. A philosophy that will concede no reason for all acts of sexual intercourse to remain open to conception, can find no reason why abortion or eugenics should not be practiced.
You see, if there is contempt for the spiritual element in the human intimacies that generate life, then there is contempt for life itself. If it is not the case that all human life is sacred, then no human life is sacred. If there is not an inviolable right to life for everyone, then there is an inviolable right to life for no one. In losing the universal acceptance of children, we stand to lose an integral part of our humanity.
It is from the intensely private, wonderful, heart-warming intimacy between husband and wife that it has been ordained by God that each baby should be conceived. Yet the feminist ascendancy in the last thirty years has brought to us the delusion that we may with impunity defy one of the first principles of natural law: that procreation is a good, to be supported and favored, and what threatens it to be avoided.
The errant view has taken hold that babies are products, optional extras, that can be ordered or canceled at will, any time, for any reason or no reason. It is perhaps the most curious phenomenon of our century, this delusion that all of us, including adolescents, have the right to be "sexually active", untrammeled by the intolerable threat of having a baby. How gross this foolish decree that we have the right to unlimited recreational sex while at the same time reserving the right not to have to carry to full term any child conceived in the carefree exercise of the aforementioned right.
At the international level, gender mainstreaming, the ethically dubious feminist tool for ideological indoctrination, has sought to establish the notion that all human rights are relative, are culturally constructed, and need reinterpretation over time [E/CN.4/1996/105, paras. 13, 58].
Old male rights, such as religious and conscientious objection, recede as new women's rights, such as the right to abortion, emerge.
The underlying premise of a great deal of reinterpretation of UN human rights instruments is that marriage and gender roles are cultural constructs that can be altered. The new core values hold that contraception and abortion and freedom to express sexual preference are essential to the full enjoyment of human rights.
And this is the tragedy of the most affluent of the late 20th century societies around the world: that we have allowed human rights discourse to be hijacked in order to establish a self-obsessed culture oblivious to the disastrous effects our willful actions have on each other. Legislatures and judiciaries around the world are being pressured by powerful groups demanding that governments repeal all laws prohibiting abortion and sodomy.
Where remnants of decency and traditional morality remain, governments are being pressured to enforce anti-discrimination laws as the tenets of decency and morality are increasingly condemned as discriminatory against those who do not subscribe to them. All limiting laws on access to abortion, and on the full enjoyment by adolescents of their sexual and reproductive rights, all protective laws such as age limits on homosexual initiation, on access to abortion, or parental notification are being seen as discriminatory against adolescents. Discriminatory attitudes towards premature sexual activity and towards abortion are said to exacerbate the dangers of adolescent pregnancy, of "adolescent vulnerability to reproductive ill-health".
The new sexual orientation rights are being supported by particularly pernicious perversion of genuine human rights. For example, the special protection for motherhood and childhood and special support for families proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is now being portrayed as discriminatory towards homosexual couples.
Globalized biological warfare
In effect, what is happening is that powerful forces within the United Nations are conducting a form of globalized biological warfare. This is a war against the natural sexual order and against the natural patterns of family formation. Towards Binding International Human Rights Law UN treaty bodies are even now examining each article of UN treaties our countries have already agreed to, with a view to reinterpreting them in the transforming light of the new gender perspective. These reinterpretations are to translate into binding international human rights law and this international law is to override not only national sovereignty but also individual rights and freedoms relating to conscience and religion.
And the outcome? Powerful strategists in the UN system are proceeding to shape abortion as a human right, to craft new rights and freedoms for homosexual partners; and to confer on adolescents (from age 10) full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive freedoms and rights.
The objectives of the UN's shift to ideologically defined human rights are clear: 1. To make abortion a human right. 2. To free adolescent sexuality from parental supervision to invest adolescents with a right to privacy, a right to contraception and abortion services without parental notification. 3. To assign the same rights and privileges to homosexual relationships as to traditional marriage and the founding of a family 4. To free both adult and adolescent sexuality from religious influence. If we wish to maintain our sanity, we must defeat these objectives and return to family. For the basic human survival pattern for all mankind has always been the family. Each of us comes into the world as a son, or as a daughter; we take a family name, which immediately dispels anonymity. It is family that establishes and upholds the true value of each person.
Future of The Family
It should be understood that for the survival of a truly human race we must continue to respect the natural laws of family formation and sexuality. For if we contemplate honestly and deeply man's mysterious existence in this temporary, speck-sized annex of eternity and infinity, we are forced to acknowledge how little we know of its meaning, its origin and its destiny. But of one thing we can be certain: that as human beings we are singularly privileged just to be alive. And not poverty, not pain, not heartache, not desperation; not suffering, not sickness, nor deformity; not fear nor loneliness not depression, not even madness can alter or negate that privilege, or warrant the coaxing or the wresting of that privilege from us, or the denying of that privilege to others.
Whatever the future of the family, we must hold tight to that first principle of natural law: life is good, and to be supported and favored, and all that threatens it is to be avoided. Somehow we have to find the honesty and the humility to acknowledge and respect the profoundly necessary ties between sexuality and the human family.
It is really a choice beyond our ken, this choice to bring life or deny life to another human being. In losing the ability to accept with tolerance and equanimity the conception and birth of all babies, we have lost an integral part of our humanity. Our hearts have been overlaid with a sophistication that has disguised the essential and enduring truth that procreation isn't a choice it is a need, perhaps the oldest deepest, most fundamental need of every human being, a profoundly compelling need to share the miracle of life.
Should we be able to throw off the absurdities constraining us to deny this need, who knows, we may be moved once again to respond spontaneously to the creation of each new life with the heart's joyous leap of recognition and welcome, once again to echo Adam's cry of deep satisfaction: "Ah, this one is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh...". To the extent that we can not longer make that response, we have become dehumanized, the foolish victims of a choice, hailed as a freedom, and fast becoming a tyranny.
In the midst of a world which denies the fundamental truths of human sexuality, we must continue to affirm that authentic love and fulfillment are achieved only through openness to life, upholding the dignity of each person from conception, and cherishing the loving commitment to marriage and family, on which a peaceful, caring society is founded.
Rita Joseph has represented family concerns at UN conferences, and writes and lectures on social issues especially concerning women and families, and has made a special study of the Holy Father's writings on family and on women. She has previously lectured at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Melbourne. Rita and her husband live in Canberra, Australia.
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