Are We at the End?

St. Paul narrates the trajectory of depravity in his Letter to the Romans:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

It seems that Paul is narrating the unnatural vices as the upshot of infidelity to God in the first place.

Contemplative, speculative appreciation of what Paul is narrating here, paired with the same for the Book of Wisdom, shows that Paul is indeed following the same spirit as that Book, and even reading it. Wis 13 narrates the foolishness of idolatry and the in-excusable character of failure to (a) recognize and (b) worship the one true God. Although not all can be philosophers, and few that can are good ones, yet all are responsible to follow the most basic inference from the fragility of the world, from its multiplicity and instability, from its contingency, all this weakness mixed into its very beauty and comeliness, its mild days and blue seas, its marvelous culmination in the sweet age of a new marriage — to the existence of one cause sustaining it all, to the existence of God. Anyone is capable of this inference and of the moral certainty that it is a true inference. Thus, those who do not recognize God’s existence are “without excuse”. Further, those who do not, from that recognition, give him the honor that is his due, are without excuse and idolaters, for they give their hearts to something or someone that is not God.

Wisdom makes these claims about idolaters in chap. 13. Paul does the same in Rom 1. Wisdom goes on to narrate further deterioration of morals in chap. 14:

“Afterward it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife due to ignorance, and they call such great evils peace. For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs, they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another or grieve one another by adultery, and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, pollution of souls, sex perversion, disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery.”

Paul’s list of various evils dovetails with this list. What is here called sex-perversion, that is, unnatural sex acts, is spelled out in detail by Paul as the ultimate shame.

Might Paul’s text and the trajectory also discernible in Wisdom give us a hermeneutical clue as to how to read today’s signs of the times?

Quite obviously, we are presently experiencing the societal performance and celebration of utter perversions of sexual desire. Of course, perhaps we should add, briefly by way of passing, that the mere experience a desire for such unnatural acts, insofar as neither solicited by free will nor the result of moral defect, is not a sin but a disorder. Those burdened with the desire can even with such desires – provided they manfully resist them (see Trent, VI) attain great holiness, just as others burdened by temptations not the result of free will and not the result of neglect or moral defect, can attain great holiness.

But the acts to which the desires point are execrable. That is why the desires are themselves dis-ordered or, in classical terminology, perverted. Because the desire is disordered, it must be rejected not embraced. This does not mean “repressed in denial”. It means one must not think the desire good and something natural, to be embraced. It is something one should move beyond, and there are various ways of moving beyond it. Let the psychologists deal with their angle on the problem. The spiritual and moral authors say that any sexual desire whose act is not acceptable (sex with the same sexed person, sex with one not one’s spouse, sex with one’s spouse but not at the right time, etc.) should be IGNORED. That is, you should go and play some football, or run, or watch a hilarious movie, or pray. If you try to stare down the desire and fight it, it will swallow you alive like Leviathan. You turn the desire off by turning your mind to some engaging pursuit. HEY – ST. FRANCIS Threw himself into thorn bushes. That got his mind off the ladies. That is what you do in the emergency situation. In the more global situation, one needs to grow in charity and humility, the two greatest weapons against all sorts of perversions, according to a psychiatrist friend of mine. Also, one needs to grow in manliness through solid friendships with good manly men. One must avoid delicacies such as too much good gourmet food. One should accept hardship. Stop dwelling on oneself. Give to the poor. Wear an itchy shirt. Stop slaking your thirst all the time for “health’s” sake, and go an extra hour without water. Above all PRAYER AND THE ROSARY. The Devotion to the 7 Sorrows of Mary is very simple and very powerful. The Rosary is a lion’s jaw against the beastliness of the demons. Ok, enough said. There are also faithful groups such as COURAGE that offer sound spiritual and emotional and relational help.

Back to my point: To embrace the desire is to embrace the acts and hence to commit the execrable already in one’s heart.

Hence, it is utterly execrable and disastrous, a total abandoning of duty, even worse: The fomentation of evil, that Some Pastors of the True Church are even digging around, hunting around in the hope of finding good things in these perverse actions and the desire for them. They thus show themselves not to be shepherds but to be destroyers. St. Francis predicted a destroyer to come, at least this is what many contend. He predicted a destroyer to come, by which God would let people who want to have their ears tickled, have their ears tickled; by which the already-perverse and lost would by their own evil ways, deceive themselves by a deception to come.

Are we, then, at the final end, or, – which is in some respects the same for us or for anyone in the Church at any time of great crisis – at yet one more end of twisty turns, one more approximation to the Reign of Antichrist?

We believe that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, for our Master promised this. But note: Those gates seem close to ours. Newman thought as much about the Church in his day (1838 and into his Catholic years). How much worse are we off, today?