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Author: I was ‘blown away’ by Pope Paul VI’s accurate predictions about the sexual revolution

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April 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Author Mary Eberstadt recently released her book Adam and Eve After the Pill, a study of the effects of the sexual revolution. LifeSiteNews recently spoke to Eberstadt about the book. You can also find a LifeSiteNews.com review of her book here.

BJ: Your book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, could not have come at a more opportune time. How did you manage to orchestrate the national debate on contraception to coincide with your book’s release?

EB: If it is timely, it is probably the only timely thing I’ve ever done, and it’s got nothing to do with my calculations. I’ve actually been working on the book on-and-off for four years, and I had no way of knowing it would coincide with a truly important moment in time.

BJ: It certainly underscored the importance of everything you’re talking about. Your book does not discuss health care but renders a more valuable service, which is to talk about the ramifications of widespread recreational sex and its effects. You pick up the baton from none other than Pope Paul VI, as you mention. You flesh out the predictions of his encyclical Humanae Vitae in your book’s last chapter very well. What did you find prophetic about it, and were you surprised it was as indicative as it turned out to be?

EB: I was indeed surprised. I did not read Humanae Vitae until just a few years ago, just a few years shy of its 40th anniversary, and when I finally read the document through I was just blown away by its understanding of what the world would look like if the sexual revolution proceeded.

The main thing that surprised me was its understanding of what would happen to the relation between the sexes. Humanae Vitae predicted that in a world of contraceptive sex, men and women would not get along as well, that once you sever procreation from recreational sex men would look down on women. He also advanced the idea that there would be a lowering of standards of conduct between the sexes. All of this, I argue, has come true, and yet the secular world has refused to acknowledge its truth. That to me is a paradox, because if you were to ask which document of modern times was the most unwanted and reviled document it would have be Humanae Vitae, right? Across the world, it is seen as a laughingstock in some places, as a profoundly undesired testament in others, yet this document contains more truth about the sexual revolution and the world it would usher in than any other document. We’re left here with a great paradox – I really believe that – that something that contains great truths has been almost universally reviled. And that in itself was justification enough to undertake this book.

BJ: Speaking of paradoxes, you point out in what I consider the most powerful two chapters of the book that we live in a world that is bathed in sexual images yet devoid of actual sex within marriages. What has ubiquitous porn use done to intimacy, particularly between married couples?

EB: This is a great paradox. In the chapter called “What is the Sexual Revolution Doing to Women?” In that chapter, I went through a bunch of sources in the secular world, primarily .... fashionable literature, much of it consumed by women and made for women. What I am pointing to in that chapter is the level of unhappiness that comes through these accounts. I have in mind several articles in The Atlantic magazine that are dissected in some detail, one article arguing that marriage is over, that it’s impossible to put the sexes back together again – a very sad piece by a very talented writer. What strikes me is that the women making these complaints seem never to connect the dots between our post-sexual liberation world and the unhappiness they describe.

What I’m arguing is that sexual liberation contributes to this unhappiness in several different ways. First of all, we live in a world where pornography is supposed to be off limits for discussion, at least in the secular world. Many people are laissez-faire about it. They don’t think there is any proof of negative consequences from it. I disagree with that for reasons cited in the book that have to do with social science studies. But pornography is obviously something that gets in the way of intimacy between the sexes. If you live in a world that says pornography is victimless and harmless, you then bring a great deal of confusion to the question, Why am I not happy in my relationship?

These are the kinds of paradoxes I’m trying to unearth in my book, because I think there’s a great deal of misunderstanding – including willful misunderstanding – about what the sexual revolution has wrought.

BJ: You also focus on what has happened to men, which I thought was an interesting coin-flip. I read recently from someone more on the Left that – with static wages that have not increased in real terms since 1972, men’s declining prospects both educationally and commercially in terms of their value in the workplace – the rootless lifestyle of someone who has children by several women but doesn’t support or live with any of them was a rational undertaking. If intimacy has broken down, men would not work to support a promiscuous woman he does not love. If sex is simply recreational, there is no need to engage in an extraordinary undertaking with his declining commercial value.

EB: That’s very well put, and that is an insight that I think was overlooked by our intellectuals and social scientists for the most part. There were a few exceptions. There were a couple of people who early on predicted if the sexual revolution took hold, what would happen was that men would be marginalized from family life. If you give women full reproductive power, the result will be that men – who are generally speaking less attached to the domestic unit than women are – would become even more so. They would become marginalized, and their interest in providing a home or their stake in keeping a family going would be commensurately less. George Gilder said this, and the sociologist Lionel Tiger said this. Most of conventional social thinkers and social scientists did not take them up on this challenge. Again we live in a world where, for the most part in the secular realm, the sexual revolution is seen as beyond criticism. But I think Gilder and Tiger and some other people I mention in the book, who are perfectly secular social thinkers, were perfectly right as Humanae Vitaewas right about what would happen in the world once contraception was the coin of the realm. Those consequences, some of them, have been pretty dark, and I think it’s time we turn our attention to that side of the record, as well.

BJ: In researching Adam and Eve After the Pill, you encountered some hopeless-looking data. I know this can be a challenge, because we deal with similar material at LifeSiteNews. Are you tempted to despair or are you driven more to find a solution?

EB: No, I think there are grounds for hope. First of all, let’s put this in historical perspective. The sexual revolution when put against the sweep of human history has not been with us very long. It’s been 50-plus years into this experiment, and the fallout is only just beginning to be assessed. I wanted to write this book because I wanted to be part of that assessment. I wanted to push the idea that we need to assess this fallout going forward. But once people see and understand better the consequences of this social experiment, I think they are more likely to take a different view, a dimmer view of what sexual revolution has done to the world.

I’ll give you an example, Ben, not from the religious world at all but from the point of view of demography. We all know that in Western Europe today, especially if we read the financial pages, there’s a crisis –  it’s a crisis of employment and it’s a crisis of the welfare states, which are vast and can’t be supported by the younger workers. Why? Because of the sexual revolution. Because there aren’t enough younger workers to support the older workers. Now I’m not saying people should have babies to support the advanced Western welfare state. But what I am saying is that in Western Europe you see on a very grand scale – financially, socially, and otherwise – what has happened because of the sexual revolution.  It’s entirely thinkable that down the road Europeans will go back to the family unit, as the welfare state’s inability to replace the family unit becomes more and more evident. So that’s a reason why knowing what’s going on out there I think points toward an ultimate diagnosis for hope and not despair.

BJ: You also deal in your chapter entitled “Toxic U” about what’s going on on college campuses. Anyone who has not spent time on campus does not understand these are centers of the revolution broadly speaking – not simply the sexual revolution but also the left-wing revolution, the identity politics revolution, and so on. To the extent anyone is going to have an identity as someone on the Left, or a raging secularist, this is where one is going to develop it. You go through the initiation rituals that one can slip into and, with great practice, slip out of, that permanently scar young people (binge drinking, STDs, etc.). If someone were going to college, what is the best way he or she could avoid falling into these pitfalls?

EB: Usually I get questions regarding the parents, what would you tell the parents? But I think directly addressing the young people involved is probably a better idea.

I think if I were a young person going to college now, I’d want to know what’s going on with sexual assault on campus and I devote several pages of the book to looking at studies discussing that topic. I think the problem is there has been a tendency to dismiss it and to say it’s just a matter of sowing wild oats: Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. What do you expect? But actually the Department of Justice commissioned a study of many thousands of college women, and one in five claims to have been sexually assaulted on campus. As you would expect, usually alcohol or drugs are involved. It usually takes place at night between people who know each other. There’s a lot of gray area in encounters like that, obviously. To me the meaningful statistic is that number, one in five, which is horrendous if you think about it. Even if everybody does not completely agree about what you mean when you say “sexual assault,” it means there’s a whole lot of unwanted or retrospectively unwanted sexual activity going on that people regret and would take back if they could.

What would I want to know if I were going to college? I’d want to know that almost everyone who says something like that happened to them say that it happened in their freshman or at the latest their sophomore year. Which is to say that they have to be extra vigilant during the first year of college. I think that’s important statistical information to have. It was amassed by secular social researchers.  Again, we’re talking about the fact that secular social science confirms and validates and confirms things that people in the Judeo-Christian tradition have been saying for many years.

I hope that’s what’s new about this book: that it brings social science research to bear on all these questions, so the questions get taken out of this realm in which it’s just religious folks talking to religious folks, and we finally have a way of translating them to the public square for everybody to debate.

BJ: What has happened since the book’s publication that you feel has most vindicated or authenticated your book? What has given you the greatest sense of happiness for having written it?

EB: Happiness is too strong a word. I don’t attach any feeling of happiness to this book. It is not altogether a dark book, but but a lot of it deals with difficult stuff. But that said the fact that we’re having this ongoing discussion about the HHS mandate is itself a kind of vindication of the book’s thesis.

The book’s thesis is that the legacy of the sexual revolution, contrary to what secular thinkers say, is not settled in the mind of the West. We have not reached some kind of consensus about this. It’s still on the table. The question of whether it’s been good for society or bad for society is still up for grabs. I think the fact that we’re having a national argument about funding birth control goes to show that we haven’t settled this question at all.

To the extent that the book means to put that question about the sexual revolution and its legacy back on the public table, I think this is a good moment to do it and that the HHS debate goes to show as much.

BJ: I’m certainly grateful someone has marshaled the data and made such a compelling case, as you have in this book. Thank you for your outstanding work. I hope it continues to be successful.

EB: Thank you very much, and best with your own very important work. I know LifeSiteNews, and it’s great.

BJ: Thank you. We’ll see one another out on the front lines.

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Vatican’s doctrine chief: ‘Absolutely anti-Catholic’ to let bishops conferences decide doctrine or discipline

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By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has rejected outright the idea floated by Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx that various bishops’ conferences around the world would decide for themselves on points of discipline or doctrine. 

“This is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church,” Cardinal Müller told France’s Famille Chrétienne in an interview published today

The question was raised because Cardinal Marx, the head of the German Catholic bishops’ conference and a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Nine, told reporters that the German bishops would chart their own course on the question of allowing Communion for those in “irregular” sexual unions.

“We are not a subsidiary of Rome,” he said in February. “The Synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany.”

Vatican Cardinal Müller remarked that while episcopal conferences may have authority over certain issues they are not a parallel magisterium apart from the pope or outside communion with the bishops united to him.

Asked specifically about Cardinal Marx saying that the Church in Germany is “not a subsidiary of Rome,” the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said pointedly “the president of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and as such has no special teaching authority.”  He added moreover, that the dioceses in a particular country “are not subsidiaries of the secretariat of an Episcopal conference or diocese whose Bishop presides over the Episcopal Conference.”

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The CDF head warned that “this attitude makes the risk of waking some polarization between the local churches and the universal Church.” He did not however believe that there was the will for Episcopal conferences to separate from Rome.

The important interview also saw Cardinal Müller contest the notion that the pastoral practice or discipline could change while retaining the same doctrine. “We can not affirm the doctrine and initiate a practice that is contrary to the doctrine,” he said.

He added that not even the papal Magisterium is free to change doctrine. “Every word of God is entrusted to the Church, but it is not superior to the Word,” he said. “The Magisterium is not superior to the word of God. The reverse is true.”

Cardinal Müller rejected the notion that we would have to modify Christ’s unflinching words totally forbidding divorce and remarriage.  We cannot “say that our ministry should be more cautious than Jesus Christ Himself!”  Nor could we, he added, say that Christ’s teaching is out of date or that “we need to correct or refine Jesus Christ because He lived in an idealistic world.” 

Rather, the cardinal said, bishops must be ready for martyrdom.  Quoting Jesus he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and if we speak all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

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‘Groundbreaking’: Kansas may become first state to ban dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson

TOPEKA, KS, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kansas will become the first state in the country to ban a procedure in which unborn children are dismembered in the womb, if Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill that recently passed the state legislature.

The state House passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, called dismemberment abortions in common parlance, by 98-26 on Wednesday.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which had already passed the state Senate in February 31-9, now heads to Gov. Brownback's desk.

Brownback, a staunch defender of life, is expected to sign the act into law.

"Because of the Kansas legislature's strong pro-life convictions, unborn children in the state will be protected from brutal dismemberment abortions," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which has made banning dismemberment abortions a national legislative focus.

The procedure, in which an abortionist separates the unborn child's limbs from his body one at a time, accounts for 600 abortions statewide every year.

Nationally, it is “the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second trimester abortions,” according to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook.

“It’s just unconscionable that something happens to children that we wouldn’t tolerate being done to pets,” Katie Ostrowski, the legislative director of Kansans for Life, told The Wichita Eagle.

Leading pro-life advocacy groups have made shifting the debate to dismemberment a national priority, with similar legislation being considered in Missouri and Oklahoma. Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., who is NRLC's director of state legislation, called the bill's passage in Topeka “groundbreaking.”

"When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone," she said.

The abortion lobby has made clear that it is uncomfortable engaging in a public relations tussle on this ground.

Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues associate of the Guttmacher Institute, said that dismemberment is “not medical language, so it’s a little bit difficult to figure out what the language would do.”

On the state Senate floor, Democrats tried to alter the bill's language on the floor by replacing the term “unborn child” with fetus. “I know some of you don’t believe in science. But it’s not an unborn child, it’s called a fetus,” said state Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City.

If the bill becomes law, the abortion industry has vowed to fight on.

Julie Burkhart, a former associate of late-term abortionist George Tiller, said the motion's only intention is “to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors.”

“Policymakers should be ashamed,” she said, adding, “if passed, we will challenge it in court.”

Gov. Brownback has previously signed conscience rights protections and sweeping pro-life protections into law.

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How NOT to move beyond the abortion wars

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By Anne Hendershott

March 26, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- A few years ago, when an undergraduate student research assistant of mine—a recent convert to Catholicism—told me that he was planning to meet with a well-known dissenting Catholic theology professor who was then ensconced in an endowed chair at a major metropolitan Catholic university, I told him: “Be careful, you might end up liking him too much.” I jokingly told my student not to make eye contact with the theologian because he might begin to find himself agreeing with him that Catholic teachings “really allow” for women’s ordination and full reproductive rights—including access to abortion.

I was reminded of that conversation this week when I began reading a new book by yet another engaging Catholic theology professor at a major metropolitan university who also claims (pg 6) that the argument he puts forward in his book, Beyond the Abortion Wars, is “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine.” Written by Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, the new book purports to be in line with Catholic teachings and promises “a way forward for a new generation.” But, Camosy delivers yet another argument for a woman’s right to choose abortion when confronted with an unborn child that he has described—in the past—as an “innocent aggressor.”

Indeed, Camosy has spent much of his career trying to convince us that he knows Catholic teachings better than the bishops. Criticizing Bishop Olmsted for his intervention and excommunication of a hospital administrator for her role in the direct abortion at a Phoenix Catholic hospital, Camosy suggested in 2013 that “the infamous Phoenix abortion case set us back in this regard.” Implying that Bishop Olmsted was not smart enough to understand the moral theology involved in the case, Camosy claimed that “The moral theology in the case was complex—which makes the decision to declare publicly that Sr. McBride had excommunicated herself even more inexplicable. The Church can do better.” For Camosy, “Catholics must be ready to help shape our new discussion on abortion. And we must do so in a way that draws people into the conversation—not only with respectful listening, but speaking in a way that is both coherent and sensitive.”

This new book is likely Camosy’s attempt to “draw people into the conversation.” But, there is little in his book that is either coherent or sensitive. Claiming to want to move “beyond” the abortion wars, Camosy creates an argument that seems designed to offend the pro-life side, while giving great respect to those who want to make sure abortion remains legal.

Especially offensive for pro-life readers will be Camosy’s description of the abortifacient, RU-486 as a form of “indirect abortion.” The reality is that RU-486, commonly known as the “abortion pill,” effectively ends an early pregnancy (up to 8 weeks) by turning off the pregnancy hormone (progesterone). Progesterone is necessary to maintain the pregnancy and when it is made inoperative, the fetus is aborted. For Camosy, who claims that his book is “consistent with settled Catholic doctrine,” this is not a “direct” abortion. To illustrate this, Camosy enlists philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson’s 1971 “Defense of Abortion”—the hypothetical story of the young woman who is kidnapped and wakes up in a hospital bed to find that her healthy circulatory system has been hooked up to a famous unconscious violinist who has a fatal kidney ailment. The woman’s body is being used to keep the violinist alive until a “cure” for the violinist can be found. Camosy makes the case—as hundreds of thousands of pro-choice proponents have made in the past four decades—that one cannot be guilty of directly killing the violinist if one simply disconnects oneself from him. Likewise, for Camosy, simply taking the drug RU 486 is not “directly” killing the fetus. He writes:

The drugs present in RU 486 do not by their very nature appear to attack the fetus. Instead, the drug cuts off the pregnancy hormone and the fetus is detached from the woman’s body…. Using RU 486 is like removing yourself from [Judith Jarvis Thompson’s] violinist once you are attached. You don’t aim at his death, but instead remove yourself because you don’t think you have the duty to support his life with your body…. Some abortions are indirect and better understood as refusals to aid (pp 82-83).

Perhaps there are some readers who will find Camosy’s argument convincing, but I am not sure that many faithful Catholic readers will agree that it is consistent with settled Catholic doctrine.

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As one who is hardly a bystander in the abortion wars, I wanted to like this book. As an incrementalist who celebrates every small step in creating policy to protect the unborn, I had high hopes that this book would at last begin to bridge the divide. A decade ago, in my own book, The Politics of Abortion, I joined the argument begun by writers like Marvin Olasky in his Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, that it is more effective to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people than to create divisive public policy at the federal level. I share Charles Camosy’s desire to end the abortion wars—but this war cannot end until the real war on the unborn ends. This does not mean that the two sides cannot work together—battling it out at the state level—where there is the opportunity for the greatest success. But, complex philosophical arguments on whether RU 486 is a direct or indirect form of abortion are not helpful to these conversations.

Camosy must know that we can never really “end” the abortion wars as long as unborn children are still viewed as “aggressors” or “invaders” and can still be legally aborted. Faithful Catholics know that there is no middle ground on this—the pro-life side has to prevail in any war on the unborn. It can be done incrementally but ground has to be gained—not ceded—for the pro-life side. Besides, Camosy seems a bit late to the battlefield to begin with. In many ways, he seems to have missed the fact that the pro-life side is already winning many of the battles through waiting periods, ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and restrictions on late term abortion at the state level. More than 300 policies to protect the unborn have been passed at the state level just in the past few years. The number of abortions each year has fallen to pre-Roe era levels—the lowest in more than four decade.   Much of these gains are due to the selfless efforts of the pro-life community and their religious leaders. Yet, just as victory appears possible in many more states, Camosy seems to want to surrender by resurrecting the tired rhetoric—and the unconscious violinists—of forty years ago.

While it is disappointing, it is not unexpected considering Camosy’s last book lauded the contributions of Princeton’s most notorious professor, Peter Singer—the proponent of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Claiming that Singer is “motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals,” Camosy’s 2012 book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, argues that, “Though Singer is pro-choice for infanticide, on all the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion but one, Singer sounds an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.”  In a post at New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive organization led by Rev. Richard Cizik (a former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was removed from his position because of his public support for same sex unions, and his softening stance on abortion) Camosy wrote that he found Singer to be “friendly and compassionate.”  Camosy currently serves on the Advisory Board of Cizik’s New Evangelical Partnership—where he has posted Peter Singer-like articles including: “Why Christians Should Support Rationing Health Care.”

One cannot know the motivations of another—we can never know what is in another’s heart so it is difficult to know why Charles Camosy wrote this book. It must be difficult to be a pro-life professor at Fordham University—a school known for dissenting theologians like Elizabeth Johnson. But, if one truly wants to advance a culture of life in which all children are welcomed into the world, it would seem that inviting Peter Singer to be an honored speaker to students at Fordham in 2012 is not the way to do it, nor would claiming that RU-486 “may not aim at death by intention.” Perhaps it is unwise to continue to critically review Camosy’s work from a Catholic perspective because it gives such statements credibility—and notoriety. But, as long as Camosy continues to claim that his writings and policy suggestions—including his newly proposed “Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act”—are “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine,” faithful Catholics will have to continue to denounce them.

Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine. 

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