Old and New Tyrannies Borne of Lust

We have seen many examples of the tyrannical mindset of those who are at the forefront of this latter stage of the Sexual Revolution, led by the homosexualist movement and its political and governmental allies. We have observed the treatment by state human rights commissions of bakers, florists, and photographers who religiously object to serving same-sex “weddings”; the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate; Catholic adoption agencies being shut down because they won’t place children with same-sex couples; New York City’s threatening to fine employers, businesses, and landlords who won’t use a person’s preferred pronoun referring to his or her gender; women having to share public restrooms with men who claim to be women; Canada refusing to allow a Christian university to start a law school because it refuses to permit students to engage in sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman; a minister jailed in Sweden for preaching a sermon against homosexuality; in Houston the lesbian mayor trying to subpoena pastors’ sermons if they dealt with homosexuality or gender identity; and the list could go on and on.

What these examples show is a massive assault on such time-honored liberties—ultimately grounded in natural law and concerned with protecting human dignity rightly understood—as religious freedom, free speech, and respect for basic privacy in the name of claimed sexual liberties of all sorts. Essentially, what is held uppermost today is that the latter take precedence over every other right—even those specifically catalogued in traditional human rights documents such as the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, they represent a clear attempt to force people to accept, and even endorse, behaviors and practices that they find morally objectionable and that affront the natural law.

Even where the law has not yet been used as a club to force conformity to the sexual Weltanshauung of the age, activists stand ready to pounce on dissenters. One thinks of the recent social media response to a young man, a former Boy Scout, who wrote critically about the direction of the organization in admitting homosexual leaders and youth and so-called transgenders. Or how about the vicious responses anyone gets who publicly opposes same-sex “marriage” or calls homosexual behavior immoral—by people who claim that those espousing these beliefs are “haters”?

Assaulting age-old truths, norms, legal and constitutional principles, political practices and structures, and even religious beliefs, and forcing people to conform for the sake of justifying sexual immorality is nothing new. Consider the Protestant Reformation in England. As one writer has stated, it happened because of King Henry VIII’s lusts. To get his divorce and to give an aura of legitimacy to his taking up with Anne Boleyn, Henry not only severed England from the Catholic Church and ushered in the long period of persecution against Catholic believers, but began a sweeping and destructive transformation of the country’s politics and law. As Professor Richard O’Sullivan wrote, at Henry’s behest, and to carry out his aims, Parliament assumed absolute power—when in fact, it was the king who had the absolute power—which went against the country’s entire previous tradition. This new governmental absolutism shredded the country’s common law tradition—and the liberty of subjects that it guaranteed—and discarded the natural law behind it.

This is why, O’Sullivan says, at St. Thomas More’s trumped up trial for treason—which at bottom, as the dramatic moment in the movie A Man for All Seasons makes clear, was because he would not accept Henry’s illicit marriage—his appealing to the common law rule that a defendant’s silence could not be used to convict him was just brushed aside. After the guilty verdict, O’Sullivan says that More castigated the law he was accused of violating, which required Henry’s subjects to take an oath acknowledging him as the head of the Church, as “contrary to the law of God, the law of reason, and the law of the land.” As O’Sullivan noted, this was a “major disruption” to the “common law thought pattern” that made all of these, in this order, the basis of English legal, political, and social life.

This shows the extent to which many people, driven by the master passion of lust, will go to suppress a deep-down guilt which most have—despite their denials of any such thing—for their transgressions. Not only will they look to destroy people—and depending on the time and situation, literally (i.e., physically) destroy them as Henry VIII did, or destroy their livelihoods, futures, and even freedom as in the above examples—but also a people’s constitutional principles and traditions. Except for the most dissolute, whose consciences have been virtually stilled, the natural law works in people so that their conscience tries to scream out to them even if they won’t listen. The insecurity brought about by those pangs of conscience perhaps causes them to lash out even more against those who call them out for their thinking and behavior.

Humans have a need to get people to endorse their immoral conduct in order to lighten the burden of guilt and insecurity, and provide reassurance that what they’re doing isn’t so bad after all—oh, and if someone is in the position to do so, he will even not hesitate to force people to do this, just as Henry VIII fashioned a new church and banned the old one—the true Church—and made his subjects join it. These days, the homosexualists use whatever means are at their disposal—whether it be deceit, public discrediting and denunciation, or governmental coercion—to get the approval they seek. It seems as if they need to have people join them somehow in their evil. Sound ethical thought holds that good is diffusive of itself; I often think that evil can be as well.

Nowadays, unlike in Henry VIII’s time, there is another factor helping to breed intolerance and the desire to suppress those who disagree: the force of modern ideologies, the substitute religions of our time. The predominant present-day ideologies, such as homosexualism and feminism, follow Marxism that, at least in a vulgarized way, shaped them by featuring rigid precepts and demands that tolerate no dissent. Even liberalism, after its transformation beginning in the 1960s, has become increasingly rigid in the principles it has embraced—especially on sexual, family, and human life issues (most of them involve in some way the cardinal sin of lust)—and progressively intolerant. There is also the force of the now widespread ruling belief—itself a product in part of modern ideology—in the autonomous self, the notion that the individual is the sole arbiter of moral truth with no principle higher than himself (this seems especially to apply, once again, to matters involving lust). This not only gives the individual a presumed justification for whatever he does, but also a basis to suppress others who disagree. After all, who can rightfully attack individual autonomy?

The homosexualists and other sexual revolutionaries and their political allies may currently be sitting back and smugly figuring that they are now in control and the tide of history is on their side. As they become increasingly intolerant and repressive, however, there will be an almost certain—probably intense—reaction, just as there was with the Glorious Revolution after the long period of Tudor, Stuart, and Cromwellian absolutism in England. The reaction will begin when even a relatively few courageous people begin to vigorously speak up. In 1985, the Communist Party honchos in the USSR and elsewhere in Eastern Europe wouldn’t have dreamed that, in a few years, instead of being the masters of history they were in its dustbin. 

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from “The Great Matter” painted by Emanuel Gottlief Leutze in 1846.

Stephen M. Krason

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Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He holds a J.D. and Ph.D. (political science) and an M.A. in theology/religious education and is admitted to a number of law bars, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the author, most recently, of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and editor of three volumes: Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013) and The Crisis of Religious Liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and most recently, Challenging the Secular Culture: A Call to Christians (Franciscan University Press). His latest book is Catholicism and American Political Ideologies (Hamilton Books). He is also the author of a new novel, American Cincinnatus. The views expressed here are, of course, his own.

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