Dr. Anthony Esolen is one of Cowboy Papist favorite writers, since we read his translation of Dante‘s The Divine Comedy. Dr. Esolen has written a wonderfully coherent essay at The Public Discourse on the logical fallibility of the sexual revolution and it’s child in our culture today, “gay marriage.” As a professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Ironies of Faith, Dr. Esolen is a man who knows of what he speaks. It’s very difficult to find fault in his premise; below are some of my choice passages from this article titled “Sexual Revolution: Defend It, If You Can « Public Discourse.” He opens with this direct assertion:
“Why should two men who are sexually attracted to one another not be allowed to pretend that they are married? That we are even asking such a question is the result of our having accepted the premise of the sexual revolution, which is, essentially, that what people do with their bodies is their own business, so long as no one is harmed. By “no one” we mean the people involved in the sexual act, and sometimes, though much less reliably and without a great deal of concern, an unwitting spouse who happens, at the moment, not to be in the bed but, perhaps, shopping for dinner, or laying pipes at a construction site. By “harm” we mean obvious physical or psychological violence. So we frown upon rape and, after two generations of knowing smiles and winks, pedophilia. Everything else goes.
“Now the odd thing about this premise is that, despite its being so widely taken for granted, it is astonishingly weak. The person who proclaims it severs himself, in effect, from all considerations of the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. For he says, “With regard to sexual behavior, so long as no one is being coerced into the act, and, perhaps, so long as no spouse is being betrayed, the claims of virtue do not apply.” The justification of the sexual act is located in the desire itself, and the desire is taken as a brute fact, a given. But this is a premise we would reject out of hand in any other sphere of human action.
“We know, indeed, that the very reason why we inculcate the virtues in ourselves and in our children is so that we will do the right thing despite what we happen to desire, and, more, that we will learn to desire what is right, because it is right, just as we should wish to know the truth because it is true.
The obvious cultural defect resulting from this belief in unlimited desire so long as it doesn’t cause physical or psychological harm to anyone else is the epitome of selfishness; it is a core belief in today’s secular doctrine of belief. This cannot change without fundamental realignment of faith, love, and charity that comes from time and generational change.
Dr. Esolen points out the hypocritical positions of supporters of gay marriage as they tout the triviality of what occurs on one’s private life also needs the support and protection of our nation’s constitutional law to maintain its triviality. Dr. Esolen goes on:
“Indeed, I can conceive of no other thing more deeply determinative of what a society will be like, or even whether it will be a genuine society at all, than our folkways regarding men and women, their courtship, their marriage, their duties to one another, and their raising of children. Sex—both the distinction between man and woman, and the act that unites man and woman in the embrace that is essentially oriented towards the future—is a foundational consideration for every people. When we ask, “Will a man be allowed to have more than one wife?” or “Will husbands and wives be allowed to divorce at will?” or “Will unmarried people be encouraged to behave as if they were married?”, we are asking, whether we understand it fully or not, “What kind of culture, if any, do we want to share?“
“And that sharing of a culture brings me to the crucial point. It is a plain fact that what two people do in a bedroom is not confined to the bedroom. The most obvious evidence for this fact can be seen around us everywhere, walking on two legs. They are the creatures known as children. . . Now, it is also a plain fact that children deserve to be brought up by both a mother and a father. This ought to be no more controversial than asserting that they deserve to be fed well and dressed warmly and loved. The boy needs a father to teach him to be a man; the girl needs a father to protect her and to affirm her worthiness to be loved by a man; and, as for a child’s need for a mother, it is so obvious that only madmen and modern educators would dare to deny it. If we would deny that children should be brought up in stable families, with mother and father, we need only look to our bursting prisons, and ask how many of the men incarcerated actually grew up in unbroken homes. In other words, when we are talking about sex, we must talk about the common good.
He finishes up by declaring that the sexual revolution, like many other revolutions before it, have failed.
“They began . . . by justifying the new “virtues” of freedom of sexual expression, on the grounds that we would be a looser, friendlier, sweeter, less violent, and more beautiful society. Well, that certainly didn’t happen. . .
“The sexual revolutionaries have for too long simply begged the question. They say, “We should be allowed to do this, because every sexual desire short of rape and (sometimes) adultery should be tolerated—no, encouraged, even honored in law.” But that is to justify the sexual revolution by saying that the sexual revolution is justified. Let them do more. Let them argue that the sexual revolution—in its entirety—has conduced to the common good.
“In other words, let the sexual revolution be justified on grounds of the common good. I believe it fails that test miserably, with evidence that is weighty, obvious, manifold, logically and anthropologically deducible, and clearly predictable by wisdom both pagan and Christian. Let them make their case, rather than asserting a principle that, in reality, would destroy the very idea of the common good.”
Frankly, the sexual revolution and its horrific offspring will indeed expire over the next several generations if the “virtue” of selfishness can be successfully defeated by the coming generations of priests, teachers, and parents. Of course, there’s always the risk one runs of being labeled as a hate-filled bigot when one doesn’t subscribe to the virtue of selfishness. Ah, as if what ‘they’ thought mattered!