Our Moral Morass

Last week I was asked
how to advise a twelve-year-old girl who has been asked to babysit for neighbors. The problem was that the neighbors are a lesbian couple who have had a child by artificial insemination. The girl was uncertain what to do, and uncomfortable at the prospect.

The previous weekend, we were having dinner with a wonderful Catholic family out in the country, and the father said that down the road lives a homosexual couple that gives pool parties in the summer. When welcoming the family, another neighbor said, “You have to get to know Randy and Bob. Their pool parties are fantastic. They always have the greatest food!” Naturally, the Catholic father was reluctant to attend with his four sons and daughter.

The worst moral nightmare I have come across was an old college friend whose daughter came back from college with the news that she was a lesbian. The girl moved to New England with her partner so they could get “married,” and soon announced that the girlfriend was pregnant. The sperm donor was her 18-year-old brother.

In recent weeks we have also been subjected to the news reports of a “man” who is pregnant. This is no longer the stuff of wild San Francisco bath houses or obscene “gay pride” parades in Manhattan. We’re talking about cozy little “alternative families” in the suburbs. Not only is it in the suburbs, but it is in the suburban church: The Episcopalians have famously consecrated a bishop who left his wife and family for his boyfriend, and other mainstream Protestant churches are not far behind on the whole lesbian-gay-trans express train.

The monstrosity of weird and perverted sexuality is here, there, and everywhere. What is an ordinary Christian supposed to do?

What got me thinking about the moral morass of our modern society was the news last week about the police raid on the polygamous fundamentalist Mormon sect in Texas. The inconsistency and hypocrisy of the secular establishment is stunning. The response from the mainstream press to the “pregnant man” story was, “Shucks, what will they think of next!” There’s no hint that such an action is grotesque and repellent, much less that it is morally abhorrent and intrinsically abusive of the human person.

The secular reaction to the pregnant “man” is the same as their reaction to a whole range of moral issues — that is, there is no reaction. Whether it is underage sexual behavior in schools, increasingly bizarre homosexualism and sexual deviancy, freewheeling divorce and remarriage, abortion on demand, or totally unrestrained sexual activity, a studied neutrality is maintained. No one must be shocked. Nothing must be called immoral. There is to be no outrage. Bemused tolerance is the order of the day. No one is allowed to pass judgment. Objective detachment is the only permissible response.

Not so, however, if the problem is with a religious sect. Serial monogamy in Los Angeles is fine, but polygamy in Texas is a crime. Sexualizing young girls in the pornography and advertising industry is fine, but marrying young girls in a Texas commune is wrong. Pressuring women to wear immodest and sexually provocative clothing is “normal,” but pressuring women to wear modest clothes in a Texas commune is frightening and abhorrent. Date rape and unrestrained orgies on college campuses are all part of college life, but pressure for sexual activity among teen girls on a Texas ranch is horrific.

Please do not misunderstand me: I am not supporting the genuinely bizarre practices of a fundamentalist Mormon sect. I am not advocating their twisted ideas about marriage or the indulgence of their penchant for young girls. I am not advocating polygamy or rape or sexual abuse. I am simply pointing out the hypocrisy of our secular, hyper-sexual society.

The critic will respond, “Yes, but the goings-on in the Texas ranch are illegal.” This leads to the question, “Why is polygamy for a Mormon illegal, but serial monogamy for a Methodist legal?” In both instances the man has more than one wife; the only difference is the Mormon has them at the same time. Why is it legal for a woman to medically alter her appearance, legally become a man, marry another woman, and become pregnant by artificial insemination, but it is illegal for a Mormon man to marry a 15-year-old?
The examples could be multiplied. The point is that when society is in moral meltdown, the law becomes an ass. Given the legality of quick divorce and remarriage, homosexual marriage, grotesque reproductive technologies and transgendered identity change, why should those who favor polygamy and underage marriage not launch a campaign to legalize their proclivities?

The reason we are bogged down in a relativistic moral swamp is that our society has no agreed-upon moral compass. The secular relativist believes in a sexual free-for-all, but only for those he finds acceptable by some arbitrary standard of political correctness. For instance, it is okay for homosexuals to parade semi-nude in obscene protest on the steps of a cathedral, but it is not okay for Mormons to practice polygamy in private.

New Age gurus simply follow the moral code they share with the black arts (do what you will), while liberal Protestants attempt to baptize the politically correct code that espouses tolerance as the highest virtue. Because their morality is based on the underlying philosophy of nihilistic secular relativism, both are building on quicksand.

Meanwhile, conservative Protestants (and other sects and cults) try to stand against the tide of moral decay using only the Bible. While laudable, the problem with their position is that they cannot agree on the interpretation of the Bible. The Bible is simply too complex and cannot be used to extract convenient proof texts for effective moral principles in a modern, global world. When the Biblicist, for example, tries to prove that homosexuality is condemned by an Old Testament text, the homosexualist asks whether the Biblicist’s wife ever wears pants; whether he eats pork, shrimp, and oysters; and whether he shaves the corners of his head, for all these things are also prohibited by the Levitical law.

The conservative Christian’s core problem is more dangerously exposed when his own scholars and pastors start to use the Bible to justify moral positions like remarriage after divorce, the legitimacy of artificial contraception, reproductive technologies, abortion, and tolerance of homosexual unions. In the end, Biblicism proves to be just as much a shifting sand as secular relativism.

The Catholic Church is the only worldwide religious institution that even attempts a coherent, intelligent, and cohesive moral framework that applies to the whole of humanity. Pope John Paul II’s development of the Theology of the Body is a profound and far-reaching attempt to synthesize a proper philosophical understanding of the human person and sexual morality. It springs from natural law, the revealed wisdom of Sacred Scripture, and the Christian tradition, while integrating the proper insights of psychology, philosophy, and theology.

The result is a foundation on which to build. It is an authority; a rock in the midst of the shifting sands of our present moral morass. We do well to stop, look, and listen before it is too late.

Rev. Dwight Longenecker


Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion published by Thomas Nelson. Check out his website and blog at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

  • Maureen Martin

    Well done, Father.This type of article would be great coming from any Catholic, but the fact that it is coming from a priest is especially encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    God bless, Maureen Martin

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    Great article, Father.

  • Andrew White

    The first anecdote of this story: While if the girl is uncomfortable she should not babysit, the first time I read this it seemed as though you were stating that there was something wrong with the child because his/her parents were lesbians and he/her was conceived in an immoral way. I hope you concur the child still deserves love and care. There is nothing wrong with that child.

    The second anecdote stated “Naturally, the Catholic father was reluctant to attend with his four sons and daughter.” Why? While the father would not condone homosexual activities to his children, there’s no evidence that going to a pool party (where all of their friends and neighbors would be enjoying themselves) would harm the children.

    Finally, while I completely agree that the modern culture is hyper-sexualized and diminishes God’s plan for us, statements like these, “Date rape and unrestrained orgies on college campuses are all part of college life, but pressure for sexual activity among teen girls on a Texas ranch is horrific” do not help. At best this is extreme hyperbole, but more likely this is an untruth. Date rape is not considered “part of life,” it is an outrage and a crime and no college, college official, or decent student believes it to me normal. Unrestrained orgies do not seriously happen rampantly on college campuses either. I won’t dignify that one with further elaboration.

  • Beth Burgess

    I too wonder why it is “natural” that the father not want to take his children to a pool party by homosexual neighbors for that reason alone. I can understand his leaving if something objectionable should happen to make the father uncomfortable, but I don’t see it being obvious that he should not take them in the first place (assuming of course that he goes to neighborhood pool parties already!) Could you clarify?

  • Chris Baker

    Great piece Fr. Longnecker.

    I’m a little bemused by some of the comments regarding one of the examples.
    Attending the party would, at least on some level, be condoning the lifestyle would it not? It’s not about harming the children by attending, it’s about confusing them.
    Isn’t two men cohabiting as a “couple” enough to make someone uncomfortable? Or does our ingrained desire to be sociable and polite trump our stated moral standards? Isn’t the mainstreaming of immoral lifestyles by the culture the whole point of the article?

  • Teri Bohlinger

    Hate the sin. Love the sinner.

  • Ender

    For those who question why a parent would not want his children to attend a party given by his neighbor, I would ask if there was any behavior the neighbor could practice that would merit such a response? Engaging in social relationships implies, if not acceptance at the very least neutrality, to the actions of those with whom one freely associates.

    Is a parent not justified in limiting associations for his children with those whose behavior violates his beliefs?

    The question here is not whether there are neighbors one is right to avoid, it is whether a homosexual pair fall into that category. Clearly, for those who find homosexual behavior gravely disordered, they do.

  • Zoe

    It seems to me that Father’s point here was to point out the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the secular establishment and the press and to shine some light on how we are “bogged down in a relativistic moral swamp (with) no agreed-upon moral compass.”

    He begins by mentioning some situations in which Christians/Catholics may find themselves confused or uncomfortable. While I am the first to lean on the side of being in relationship with those who live and believe quite differently from me, I think the questions and concerns these situations may bring up are legitimate and important for discussion.

    Though I can’t speak for Father, it doesn’t seem his point was to say the girl shouldn’t babysit the child of two lesbians, or the father shouldn’t take his family to the homosexual couple’s pool party, but that if you look at the disgust shown at polygamy and marriage to teenage girls in a religious sect, and compare it to society’s tolerance for so many other sexual moral issues, you find inconsistency and hypocrisy.

  • Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    Dear Fr. Dwight,

    In meditating about all of these issues I observe the world dividing in two camps, sort of like the waters of the Red Sea. I spoke recently with two young men (14 and 16 y.o. brothers) While the family is not what you would call religious, the boys have observed the effects of disordered desires in others and have come on their own to the decision to live clean, moral, purpose-driven lives away from sex, drugs and other forms of wasting time and health.

    At first I was surprised, then I asked them more questions. Something is happening here, I thought. There are young people out there that see the sadness and stupidity of the “girls gone wild” world. They have seen people die of drug excesses and know that diseases abound that can cripple them for life. There is hope for those who look and learn from the painful experiences of others. Eventually this sad era shall pass and we may be seeing the last of it. The days of Sodom were brief indeed but their fate was a lasting example for those who witnessed their excesses.

    I hope we, as a community, can act as a magnet to attract those who can still change and want to live good lives. A true sense of koinonia seems to me the answer to attract those who can still be rescued.

  • Criffton

    Date rape isn’t accepted by all, but by some. The Fraternities at my school don’t advocate it, but do nothing at all to prevent it, even when they know it is happening.

    I know / know of several people that regularly take advantage of intoxicated women at parties, and do so with very little reproach other then others calling them a creep. After all, if sex is no big deal, what is effectively rape isn’t either. And I go to a fairly conservative school as well, secular, but still conservative.

    We are definitely in a moral morass. I don’t like thinking of what the world will be like in 15 – 20 years.

    To quote Chesterton:
    “It’s not that we don’t have enough scoundrels to curse; it’s that we don’t have enough good men to curse them.”

    I am also involved in a ecumenical campus ministry, and the moral instruction there is not very good, there are so many different views the pastor, who is quite frank, doesn’t denounce certain things at all. Abortion is a sensitive topic, not to mention homosexuality and remarriage after divorce has stopped being controversial long ago. Social justice is a much more discussed issue than abortion or homosexuality. Pastoral isn’t so much of a guiding force as an “affirming” one.

  • EK Pavlat

    Criffton wrote: Date rape isn’t accepted by all, but by some. The Fraternities at my school don’t advocate it, but do nothing at all to prevent it, even when they know it is happening.

    Ah. So they’re pro-choice on date rape. Lovely.

    Great article, Father!

  • Jack Picknell

    I am #3 of 7 children from a Catholic home. Only 3 of us remain Catholic. My oldest brother has embraced new age esoterism and is training as an apprentice channeler. My older sister has become a married lexbian wiht 2 adopted inter-racial children. My two younger brothers joined protestant denominations to please their chosen wives.

    Over half of the friends of my two young sons are in single-parent homes. Mostly single moms, going it alone, but some with visiting fathers, or half-time parents shuffling them back and forth. It’s Many call me dad, and they all seem to long for the simple security of a home with both a mom and a dad. It’s heart breaking to see their confused reliance, and their simple longing for stability when they visit us.

    I sometimes wonder how I am ever going to keep my boys on the path of truth in such a mixed up world that has infected my own family and neighborhood so severely.

    However, I never lose hope. I thank God that I have the Catholic Church standing firmly on the rock of truth. Without her lead and example, I would be abandoned to hopelessness. I have no idea how people outside get through their days.

    It is never too late. Peace.

  • R. J. Houck

    Good article, Father. However, if you want to have the complete message of where we as Catholics are and how we got here, and what we need to do about it from here, then read David Carlin’s book, “The Decline And Fall Of The Catholic Church In America.” It is not only fascinating, but very revealing. We can all stand around and lament where we are and what is happening in our society, but if we do not have a plan to combat the liberal secularism that has enveloped us, then we are doomed to go down with it.

    R. J. Houck

  • Gene Sabaitis

    In the last number of decades there is an obvious lack of leadership among our Catholic Bishops and priests in this country. Where are our Catholic leaders who should be the spokesmen against what is occuring and for what does constitute moral behavior? If some people don’t like to hear such, that’s tough. I believe that there are much more who want and need that direction. Not saying anything is no better than silent acceptance or tolerance. Disgracefully so little is said from our pulpits.

    God bless you and thank you for speaking out in your article.

  • WonderingWanderer

    Here is what I have to say. What you think is perverted is someone else’s love. If there is one thing I have learned from God, it would be to love one another. Love thy neighbor as you would love yourself. This is full of hatred and disgust. I think that morals should be based on how we treat each other. Laws are only as strong as long as the people follow them without question. You have a point on polygamy, if they want to deal with more than one at a time, so be it. Divorce is rampant and very little value is put on marriage. Now imagine being one of those who stands for marriage and love, who is also is made of strong moral fiber. Would you deny that person the right to make a commitment to the one they love purely based on their sexuality homo or not? If you would, then you make no sense. You find it morally ok to deny someone the right to happiness, based on your beliefs. Do those people take away your rights? Or stomp on your beliefs daily? Do they hate you for being christian? Or being straight? Or being married? or divorced? Do they call you perverse for having too many kids? Do they say that because the divorce rate is so high that straight people cant marry? I think you need to rethink your values and if you are a true Christian, shouldnt you realize that Jesus died for all of Gods children and not just the ones you feel worthy? You have no more right to judge anyone than more than gays have the right to have a federally recognized marriage. God will judge when that day comes. Did you live with a love that they would be proud of? That’s all.