Coming To A Boil

JAMES HITCHCOCK

Sometime in the 1970’s enlightened opinion decided that homosexuality was no longer even a discussible issue, except insofar as discussion was directed at furthering the homosexual agenda.

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There are two theories as to the "humane" way of cooking lobsters — plunging them into boiling water, so that they die almost instantly, or gradually heating the water so that the lobster scarcely feels that it is getting hot.

So far as is known, no one has ever elicited a preference from a lobster. So too the citizenry in general are seldom consulted as to how they want their cultural revolutions — gradually over time, so they can digest change bit by bit, or all at once. For thirty years, Americans have been repeatedly tossed into an already boiling pot, to which they must adjust as best they can.

On matters pertaining to the Sexual Revolution, American society fulfills the old jibe, slightly modified, that it has gone from Puritanism to decadence without passing through any intermediate stages. As late as the 1950's (probably even later) liberals were among those using allegations of homosexuality to discredit people they did not like, such as Roy Cohn, an aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy. In the perhaps excessively heterosexual Kennedy White House it would have seemed bizarre to suggest that "gay rights" ought to be the next logical extension of liberalism, and as late as 1972 Senator George McGovern complained that he was unfairly accused of favoring "acid, amnesty, and abortion" (he did favor the latter two) but was not accused of favoring homosexuality.

Yet when the change occurred, it occurred almost literally overnight. By 1976 "gay rights" had become a visible political movement, and by the 1980's it was winning battles. (In this, as in other respects, the conservatism of the Reagan era goaded cultural revolutionaries to become even more aggressive, to compensate for their lack of influence within the administration itself.)

A classical argument against democracy has always been that masses of people, of at best average intelligence and limited education, cannot make rational judgments. But as it turns out, that is not how judgments are made in modern democracies. Instead, opinions are formed by a self-conscious elite of professors, journalists, prominent people in the professions, liberal clergy, and strategically placed officials in public and private social agencies. The average citizen can at best merely react to those opinions.

Sometime in the 1970's enlightened opinion decided that homosexuality was no longer even a discussible issue, except insofar as discussion was directed at furthering the homosexual agenda. Today there is probably no subject in American life over which more stringent censorship is exerted, outside conservative religious circles, with only a few brave individuals and journals prepared to oppose that agenda in any significant way. In this as in other respects, liberalism has gone half circle, until it now represents a commitment to censorship rather than to free discussion. (When the liberal television commentator Andy Rooney was alleged to have made "homophobic" remarks, he was temporarily suspended by CBS and had to make an abject apology.)

There is a legitimate homosexual agenda, which is that homosexuals have the same rights as everyone else. Recently, in a Missouri town an embalmer was dismissed from his job after complaints about his homosexuality, although it seems pointless for anyone to worry about who embalms his corpse.

But liberal censorship refuses to allow discussion of the possible limits of the homosexual agenda, including the rights of religious groups, for example, not to employ people openly in violation of their official moral teachings, or the likely results of officially defining homosexuals as a favored minority.

On some college campuses the liberal fascism dubbed "political correctness" has descended to the level of crude brainwashing on the borderlines of physical coercion, as in a Williams College student's description of how students reluctant to attend "sensitivity" sessions were routed out of their rooms by the college staff and herded into meetings where they were subjected to deliberately insulting and threatening "educational" procedures.

The use of coercion in these matters follows inevitably from the self-censorship which liberals practice. Having consciously refused to make familiar kinds of logical distinctions (is "discrimination" against homosexuals really like discrimination on the basis of race?), they have no choice but to use coercion against those who have failed to acclimate themselves to the boiling pot. To discuss these issues rationally is already, in the minds of many liberals, to act immorally.

In a truly liberal society, the following are among the issues which would be dispassionately and exhaustively discussed with respect to the homosexual movement:

  • The homosexual "lifestyle." As with all revolutions, this one has both a moderate and a radical face. When it suits them, some homosexuals talk about aging male couples who have lived together for thirty years in almost boring domesticity. But no one believes such cases are at all typical, and in other situations the movement deliberately assaults every traditional moral sensibility, flaunting its feverish promiscuity. If homosexual "marriages" are in theory deemed legitimate, why do they seem so foreign to the general homosexual experience?
  • The meaning of marriage. The overwhelming experience of the human race shows marriage to be ordered towards the perpetuation of that race. A redefinition of marriage as simply erotic companionship is itself a revolution of vast implications. (This of course applies to many heterosexuals as well.)
  • The nature of morality. The therapeutic revolution now holds that hating the sin but loving the sinner is impossible, because the sin is part of the sinner's very being, and to condemn it is to wound the sinner. If this redefinition is accepted, it means the end of all morality. Personal behavior would then by definition be self-justifying.
  • The crisis of masculinity. This is occurring throughout Western culture, manifest in numerous ways, of which the most serious is the abdication of fatherhood by an increasing number of males. The rise of militant homosexuality at precisely this historical juncture has immense implications which at present can only be dimly understood.

AIDS is the most glaring example of the virtual control of the mass media by aggressive lobbies, and since the beginning many citizens have strongly suspected that their government is not telling them the truth about the epidemic. (At first the citizen' fear was excessive; later they came to realize that public officials were deliberately exaggerating the dangers of heterosexual AIDS transmission.)

AIDS is perhaps the farthest point of extension of a culture which systematically abandons a sense of responsibility for personal actions, as enlightened opinion even forbids a distinction between innocent victims, such as children receiving blood transfusions, and those whose illness is a direct result of years of heedless misbehavior. (The distinction is belligerently maintained, however, with regard to "second-hand smoke.")

The treatment of AIDS in the Catholic Church illustrates poignantly how, despite the incantatory use of the word, the Church is now less postural than it used to be. There are numerous AIDS victims who are publicly angry and vindictive against the Church, against the entire society, against everyone except themselves, while many of those who minister to them spiritually actually abet that anger. (Blaming the Church is wholly irrational, given the fact that a lifetime of adherence to Church teaching would have spared, in nearly every case, the victim his fatal disease.) Especially when a priest dies of AIDS, it is now customary to confer canonization during his funeral ceremony, as though suffering of itself is ennobling, apart from an individual's spiritual response to it.

In the history of the Church there have probably been many homosexuals who led lives of heroic chastity, for whom temptation was precisely the means by which they achieved sanctity. In today's Church there are no doubt individuals, including priests, who are doing the same thing. Their "orientation" ought to be no one's business but that of their religions superiors, and they may well have a higher place in the Kingdom than those who have never had to struggle against such an obstacle.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Hitchock, James. "Coming to a Boil." Catholic Dossier 3 no. 3 (September-October 1995): 37-39.

Reprinted with permission of Catholic Dossier.

THE AUTHOR

James Hitchcock, historian, author, and lecturer, writes frequently on current events in the Church and in the world. Dr. Hitchcock, a St. Louis native, is professor emeritus of history at St. Louis University (1966-2013). His latest book is History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium (2012, Ignatius). Other books include The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life volume one and two, published by Princeton University Press, and Recovery of the Sacred (1974, 1995), his classic work on liturgy available here. James Hitchcock is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Education Resource Center. Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 1995 Catholic Dossier




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