In some ways it is hard to know what to think about the Irish Times survey, Sex, Sin and Society, the details of which were landed on our breakfast tables last week. The one thing that it is not hard to do is to suspect the choice of week in which to publish it – coinciding with the visit of Pope Benedict to Britain. On the surface it represents nothing less than a slap in the face to the Pope and anyone who might be hoping for a society of the future which might be prepared to re-embrace the values of Judaeo-Christian civilization.
If it is a true reflection of the state of public opinion in Ireland on sexual morality – and there have been good letters to Madam Editor questioning the credentials of the survey – it has revealed in all its stark reality the abysmal desert of moral relativism of which Pope Benedict spoke to us on the eve of his pontificate in 2005 and which he has reminded us of again this week. If this is the new norm of morality then we really have gone a long way down the road to a neo-pagan society.
It is shocking to some of us but clearly not to the majority – if, again, the survey can be taken as an accurate reading of what the majority of Irish people now think sin and sex are all about. The process by which this has happened – is happening – was outlined by Peter Hitchens in his column in the Daily Mail on Monday (13/08/10) when he reminded us that shock always fades into numb acceptance. He was writing in the context of the reception being accorded to the Pope in Britain but what he said can apply equally to this island. “Much of what is normal now would have been deeply shocking to British people 50 years ago. We got used to it. How will we know where to stop? Or will we just carry on forever? As the condom-wavers and value-free sex-educators advance into our primary schools, and the pornography seeps like slurry from millions of teenage bedroom computers, it seems clear to me that shock, by itself, is no defence against this endless, sordid dismantling of moral barriers till there is nothing left at all.”
What is the defence? Teaching should be the defence, but when has any of your readers last heard a teacher, clerical or otherwise, comprehensively explain the unadulterated moral teaching of Christ on the sixth commandment of the Decalogue? Milton’s words seem as relevant today as they were in the 17th century:
The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread…
There is no doubt but that there is a great deal of rank mist in the air. The Irish Times misread the Pope again today headlining its front page story, “The Pope Fears for the Future of Christianity”. He does not. He believes Christ two thousand year-old promise that He would be with us for all time, even to the end of the world. What he does fear for is mankind cut adrift from Christianity and he spelt out in no uncertain terms what things that can lead to. That is what we must all fear.
But we must also hope. Remembering that in a certain sense and at a certain point in human history, Christendom was reduced to three people standing around the foot of a Cross, we surely have grounds for hope. Despite all the negativity and rank mist we have witnessed over the past weeks, months and year, the demonstration of Christian faith, liturgical splendour and ecumenical good will we have witnessed in Britain over the past few days, show us that what was happening at the foot of that Cross is happening still and all the ugly demonstrations of bad will – or just plain blameless ignorance – which seem to threaten it will never vanquish it.