LET US CONSIDER THE EXPANSION of sexual impurity in the contemporary West, although similar remarks may be made, mutatis mutandis, about the issue in general. In chapter twelve this process is analyzed in terms of hedonism; in the present chapter it is analyzed in terms of undisciplined desires.
As is explained in more detail in the later chapter, the widespread contemporary rejection of God has led to widespread blindness to objective meaning, good, and morality, so that man has been delivered over from what is objective to what is subjective, namely his passions94. In the area of our present concern, the rejection of God has engendered a blindness to the objective meaning and goodness of chastity, marriage, and procreation, as well as to the supernatural graces that are available and necessary for their fulfilment. The consequent deficiencies and failures in chastity, marriage, and procreation have obscured their meaning and value still further and have seemed to confirm that they have no access to supernatural Grace. Now the most fundamental passion is love, in other words sensible love, and unless rational love governs sensible love, ‘unless spirit truly and vigorously assumes the ascendancy, man’s lower drives run riot in their strident search for satisfaction’ (Fr. R.O. Johann S.J. in the article on Love in the New Catholic Encyclopaedia op. cit.). Of all forms of sensible love erotic love is the most powerful, and, as stated above, when it is uncontrolled by reason, seeks to take rather than to give; it seeks to enjoy the pleasures of love without the demands of self-sacrifice, so degrading the person and treating the person of each party as the mere object of pleasure.
We note that our way of treating inordinate passions is decisive for the spiritual life: by indulging them we fall into moral depravity, as we attempt to describe in this chapter; by setting them in order by Charity we sanctify ourselves.
Let us proceed to offer a fuller picture of how atheism leads to sexual impurity (to which further, theological considerations are added in chapter twelve). In outline it would appear that atheism augments man’s desire for love in general, his desire for human love particularly, and his desire for love as a passion more particularly; that these augmented desires in their turn fuel his desire for erotic love, and that in the absence of objective moral values this desire issues into impurity.
In rejecting God, man rejects his ultimate and only fulfilment and happiness, and banishes himself into a world that is ugly, desolate, and meaningless. Man thus augments and intensifies his desire for love: his desire for communion, understanding, hope, and fruitfulness, for that which is good, true, and beautiful. Moreover, the rejection of God is connected in most cases with the rejection of objective morality, since God is typically rejected as the author of objective morality, as a threat to an individual’s moral autonomy. This in turn produces greater selfishness and consequently greater suffering. The existence of greater suffering augments man’s desire for love since love has the capacity of terminating or healing suffering.
This progression from evil to suffering to the desire for love is particularly evident in family relationships. In the present age it has become commonplace for parents to neglect, abandon, and abuse their children. This deprivation of love in itself causes extreme suffering for the child and makes him or her feel deficient and undeserving of love, a condition, which if uncorrected, persists into adulthood and engenders intense longing for love, which is its only remedy.
We see then how atheism augments man’s desire for love in general. Let us now consider how it augments his desire for human love, and his desire for love as a passion.
Man’s love is ordained towards God immediately and mediately: towards God in Himself and man for the sake of God. In the world that has rejected God, man directs his love away from God in Himself and man for the sake of God towards man in himself, towards an exclusively human love. If man has intimations of Divine Love, the atheistic world in which he finds himself imbues him with no sense of obligation to cultivate it. In the absence of a sense of obligation, he is inclined towards human love which, being predominantly given by the senses, is patent, immediate, easily accessible, and present to him in all its reciprocity, in all its fullness in this world, rather than towards Divine love which is mysterious, subtle, encountered characteristically in response to stillness, recollection, and prayer, and is present in its fullness only in the next world.
The rejection of God draws man away from Divine love to an exclusively human love, then. Similarly the rejection of objective morality to which it gives rise, draws him away from any love which lacks a passionate dimension (such as the performance of a duty) to the love which possesses a passionate dimension. With objective morality rejected, or at least considerably impoverished, appreciation for the former type of love diminishes in the popular consciousness and appreciation for the latter correspondingly increases.
We see then how atheism augments man’s desire for love, particularly his desire for human love and more particularly his desire for passionate love. In more general terms we can say that atheism diverts man’s fundamental desire for Divine love towards a surrogate love, a merely passionate human love. In this way violations of the First Comandment result in violations of the Sixth. The Old Testament affords many examples of this trajectory. More generally we may say that the two violations correspond to each other, for not only does the former result in the latter, but also the latter results in the former, the hatred of God being one of the daughters of Lust (as we shall mention a little later).
Now of all the types of passionate human love that there are, sexual love of the rational type exerts a considerable power over man because, as remarked in chapter four, it involves two persons loving one another in all their dimensions: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Part of the power of this love over man especially in the present age is its healing quality for in loving another person in this way one gives him or her to understand that he or she is deserving of love in all these dimensions, and hence brings him or her healing of past sufferings.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.