NY Times Columnist Wants Even Less Catholic Guilt Over Sex, Never Mind the Body Count

Pope Francis' new document on love and marriage isn't enough for the NY Times. Nothing could be.

By Maggie Gallagher Published on April 23, 2016

Pope Francis reminds us of the Joy of Love, and in the New York Times, journalist Timothy Egan rejoices because he thinks that means the crushing load of Catholic guilt has been lifted:

I can’t tell you how many Catholics I know who are trying to work through the consequences of those sexual strictures. They wonder if there are still people doing time in purgatory because of the misdemeanor sins of masturbation or premarital sex. Life was all don’ts and dark thoughts.

Now that that “medieval millstone” has been lifted, “The new teachings, from a self-professed less-judgmental church, go to the everyday lives of people who don’t believe that they should be constantly reminded of their inadequacies.”

Constantly. Reminded. Of inadequacies? What parish has Egan been attending, and can I go there?

I am only half-joking. I never know quite what to make of these kind of histrionics. Feeling good about ourselves has never been harder apparently than in the post-sexual revolutionary hedonistic utopia.

It’s not enough that God sent his only begotten Son to make us better — to give us entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, to buy us back from our sin and suffering with His own blood. No, no, no! We must be protected from our own suspicions of inadequacy — most especially with regard to anything sexual.

I suppose that is really true, because if we look with even a modestly humane heart at the world we’ve created by jettisoning the last remnants of sexual guilt, we couldn’t feel very good about ourselves.

Let’s start with premarital sex. It begins with the lie that we have separated sex from reproduction. And it requires abortion to deliver on that lie — to allow us to act as if what we know to be true is false. The system which separates sex from marriage gets the blood of our children on its hands — on our hands.

Over one million abortions each and every year in order to facilitate our sexual lives.

The system that tries to end guilt about premarital sex logically and inevitably ends with Chelsea Clinton calling the right to kill one’s children the “core” of “human rights.”

Perversely, this system also leaves us with more children born out of wedlock, too — some forty percent of American kids, and 1.6 million babies each year. Most of these children end up fatherless. And most of their mothers end up with the unfair burden of parenting alone. Those kids are more likely to suffer from poverty and child abuse, to drop out of high school, to experience mental and emotional problems.

Our brave new system extends to a culture of infidelity and divorce which make the vow of love into a disposable and temporary relationship.

But pay no attention to the suffering of children, since it might make you feel bad about your sex life, right?

“The pope’s guidance would be a relief to the millions of Catholics living in those newly classified irregular unions, if they ever gave it a second thought,” writes Egan, “The truth is that a majority of Catholics in Europe and the United States have long since stopped listening to church dictates about sex.”

The emptying of the pews of Europe is one consequence of that failure of faith.

Egan has missed the point.

Pope Francis is right that love is at the heart of the Christian understanding of marriage. In a fallen world Genesis holds out the light that men and women can love each other, faithfully, fruitfully — that sex can mean love not self and that babies can be welcomed with open arms, not disposed of as a problem.

Pope Francis is right to remind us we are called to form our consciences, under God, by paying attention both to the ideal of love we seek and the suffering we cause when we fail to achieve that ideal.

And when we are feeling our own inadequacies, that God has given us the remedy — His boundless Love and willingness to forgive are always freely on offer — simply for the asking. Every day we can turn away from sin and towards Love itself.

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