Question: What do Harvey Weinstein and Theodore McCarrick have in common?
Answer: That vow of celibacy they took.
Oh. Wait. Maybe not.
All kidding aside: Weinstein and McCarrick do have something important in common. They are both powerful men who believed they were entitled to use people sexually.
As everyone knows by now, countless people have been coming forward with stories of sexual abuse, harassment and rape in the movie industry (Weinstein, Kevin Spacey), politics, (Al Franken), media, (Matt Lauer), sports, (Larry Nassar), and now, the Catholic Church. Victims include men and women, boys and girls of all ages: children, teenagers and adults in subordinate positions to the predator. All this happening at this particular time allows us to see both the root cause and the ultimate solution.
The root cause of this problem is the same in both its Catholic and non-Catholic varieties. Men like Archbishop McCarrick and Weinstein think they are entitled to sex. And they both have (or used to have) enough power to take whatever they wanted. The fact that Archbishop McCarrick’s preferred sex partners are male and Weinstein’s are female should not distract us from this most basic point. Both men live by the Sexual Revolutionary Creed:
Sex is a private recreational activity with no moral or social consequences. Everyone is entitled to the sex lives they want, with a minimum of inconvenience. Any sexual activity is morally acceptable, as long as the participants consent. Believing all this is called being “sex positive.”
In practice of course, this is a sham. In practice, the richer, the more powerful, the more influential can manipulate the terms of “consent” out of all recognition. The sexual revolutionary ideology creates cover for the predator, especially the well-connected, powerful predator.
It is truly astonishing how many people accept and live by the Sexual Revolutionary Creed, without considering that they themselves might one day be the “prey,” instead of the “predator.”
I believe this is why the #MeToo movement, while producing many good fruits, has ultimately stalled. People are genuinely appalled by Weinstein’s abuses. But these same people don’t really know what to do about it. Do you recall the starlets’ inept protest at the Golden Globes? They made a pact to wear black as a protest of the objectification of women. But some of them choose black dresses, the immodesty of which, let us say, undermined their statement.
The problem? These starlets wanted to protest the exploitation of women, without protesting the ideology that made objectification socially acceptable in the first place. These women are hanging on to things they should not be hanging on to. They want to keep their pills and their pornography and their view of themselves as progressive. They want to be “sex positive” and never be caught in the predatory trap that the sexual revolutionary ideology makes possible.
This also suggests the ultimate solution.
We need to give it up. All of it. As Catholics, we are better positioned than anyone else to lead this charge. We already know that we shouldn’t be using each other sexually. Our Church has taught this since apostolic times. We already know that we shouldn’t be using contraception. Blessed Pope Paul VI predicted it 50 years ago in Humanae Vitae. The widespread social and moral acceptance of contraception leads to a “lowering of moral standards.”
That is why it is so appalling and inexcusable when powerful prelates of the Catholic church are implicated in sex abuse themselves or in covering it up in others. These men are using their position of power and authority in the Church to provide cover for their self-indulgence. They enjoy their worldly double-lives.
At the same time, the impact of these double lives goes far beyond the immediate harm to their immediate victims. These men are not too likely to be giving sermons on the evils of sex outside of marriage or of contracepted sex. Their silence has been a contributing factor to the advance of the sexual revolutionary ideology throughout society. Their corruption undermines their brother priests who are living godly lives. And the scandal of the predatory priests casts a cloud of suspicion over innocent priests. Instead of being the guardian of traditional sexual morality, the Catholic Church has become a symbol of hypocrisy or worse.
Of course, everyone reading this article is deeply troubled, ashamed, embarrassed, by all this. We wonder “How could this happen?” and “Why don’t’ the bishops do something?” and so on. I take nothing away from those feelings or those questions. You should be upset. The bishops should do something.
But I believe you can actually do something to help, regardless of what the bishops choose to do or not do. My suggestion: Let go of any part of the sexual revolution that you are holding on to. Maybe you agree that abortion is wrong, but you think contraception is OK. Maybe you are one of those parishioners who complain if the pastor preaches on pro-lifetopics. Maybe you are one of the parents in a Catholic high school who thinks the “gay” gym teacher shouldn’t be fired just because she married her same-sex partner in a public ceremony.
Stop cutting corners on Church teaching. Your witness against sexual abuse will be more compelling. You will be more motivated without the nagging hint of doubt dragging you down.
And trust me on this. You will feel better. I can remember when I finally admitted to myself that contraception was wrong, and I needed to confess it. I felt so light after that confession, I skipped across the parking lot.
Our current conflicted attitude reminds me of people back in the day who might have said, “Well, slavery isn’t so bad. We should just regulate the working hours and conditions of the slaves. And then we could have all the economic benefits of slavery without going overboard with something as radical as abolition.” What would we think of someone who reasoned that way? We’d be saying, “No, we cannot come up with enough regulations to make the principle of one person owning another anything but abusive.”
Treating sex as an entitlement is part of the sexual revolutionary air we breathe. We imagine, “If we just put another Band-Aid on this, we can all have the sex we want, without anyone getting abused. Or at least, I won’t get abused.”
There are not enough Band-Aids in existence to fix this.
No one is entitled to sex. Not Archbishop McCarrick. Not Harvey Weinstein. Not you. Not me. Let’s go all in for the full truth.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute,and the author of the forthcoming book, “The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and How the Church Has Been Right All Along.