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Peter Stockland: Returning to conscience at the collapse of the sexual revolution

  • February 6, 2018
Prudence counsels against turning the #MeToo movement into an epic of #IToldYouSo. Nor is there room, among Christians especially, for schadenfreude as the sexual revolution ends in the disgusting morass we long knew it would.

There is simply too much honest-to-God pain amid the wreckage for any of that. We must instead put our most charitable selves forward seeking to help, rather than scold, those devastated by the libertine lies of the past two generations.

That said, we are entitled to take comfort in the affirmation of the Truth we held onto for decades against a culture that insisted we were too blinded by outdated dogma to accept the realities of evolution, revolution or both.

To take but one Canadian example, as recently as last fall the Church and her faithful in Alberta were once again scorned and subject to outrageous calumny for teaching in a new sex-education curriculum that “consent alone” is insufficient for sexual intimacy. For speaking that catechetical truth, Catholics were vilified — in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein scandal no less — for purportedly promoting rape cultuasre.

Fast forward to Ontario in late January when the leader of the Official Opposition was ousted in a midnight sacking for his apparently fully consensual sexual escapades with two young women. Were I a gambler, I would happily take the odds that
now sorely wishes he’d committed to conscience the teaching of the Church. Not merely that “no means no,” or that “yes makes it all okay,” but that sexual intimacy dwells infinitely deeper in the human soul than can be communicated by a simple voicing of yay or nay.

He cannot be alone in that regard. How many men in the past few months would have been spared crippling disgrace, loss of job, loss of reputation, loss of dignity, loss of family, had their consciences been fully and effectively formed by the teaching of the Church that consent is a necessary, but never a sufficient, condition for sexual intimacy.

To borrow words of Pope Francis, how many men and women would have been saved from “the uproar and deafening noise of the ephemeral, which leads them to reject taking on stable and positive commitments for the individual and collective good” had their well-formed consciences endured at those moments, sexual or otherwise, when fleeting, foolish assent led to a day, a month, a year, a life of soul-sickening remorse?

In a recent speech to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Holy Father underscored the call in Amoris Laetitia for renewed emphasis on the formation of conscience as a source of joy for married couples and, by extension, to all the children of the Church.

“The conscience takes on a decisive role in the demanding decisions engaged couples must face in accepting and building a conjugal union and family according to God’s plan,” he said.

Of course, Amoris Laetitia has caused its own “uproar and deafening noise” among Church factions debating its essential meaning. I leave it to greater minds to sort out those particularities. What matters is that its call to conscience is one that must be heard and, indeed, which our culture will be dragged to kicking and screaming by the imminent turn away from sexual libertinism.

Since the mid-1960s, cultural forces have held sway over us that caused school children to be taught that sexual conduct was biological, not psychological, never mind spiritual. Paramountcy was given to training in the mechanical placement of condoms rather than the cultivation of authentic intimacy and love. The very repulsion that so many young women in the current #MeToo moment are giving voice too was ruthlessly repressed. It was deemed retrograde, a weak link throwback to more prudish times. Epithets such as “Victorian” were brandished like swords to silence what the conscience sought to express.

For far too long, this silencing worked, just as the corruption of genuine freedom always succeeds by appeals to false liberty. A certain serpent in a certain garden might have been the first to employ the gimmick. He was far from the last.

But now the Truth is out, illuminating the lies the culture has lived by for decades. We don’t need anyone to say they told us so. Prudence alone counsels a return to conscience.

(Stockland is publisher of and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

Read more on The Catholic Register's coverage of #MeToo.

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