An important reason behind conversions to Roman Catholicism over the last three decades has been the Protestant mainline’s abandonment of Christian teaching on sex. For a while the Anglican communion was the place for beauty-deprived Protestants to worship. But once the bishops started coming out of the closet, Christians sound on the family but challenged on doctrine needed to look for another communion. Rome’s holding the line on sex proved appealing.
But Matthew Sitman (say it ain’t so that a good Grove City boy turned Roman Catholic) warns about the danger of that strategy in response to Rusty Reno (who was Anglican and converted). Reno wrote:
The Church is the only major institution in the West that has not accepted the sexual revolution. The official resistance provides an important witness, even when combined with widespread accommodation in practice. The sexual revolution has a ruthless quality. It allows no dissent. The mere suggestion of teaching chastity to fifteen-year-olds in school is enough to unleash furious denunciations. That the Church has not allowed herself to be dictated to and intimidated by the sexual revolution inspires.
Humanae Vitae’s intransigence sustains us in our overall struggle against the dictatorship of relativism. Even among people who transgress, the resistance reassures. We’ve deregulated a great deal of personal life. Who, today, needs permission? Catholicism stands for something, a moral standard that’s inconvenient and countercultural.
The wrong reason to defend Church teaching and the status quo is because it proves strategically helpful. When Reno writes, “Humanae Vitae’s intransigence sustains us in our overall struggle against the dictatorship of relativism,” you can see that the concern is not for the coherence of what that encyclical teaches, but it’s ideological usefulness. When he also asserts, “Catholicism stands for something, a moral standard that’s inconvenient and countercultural,” I confess to wondering why “inconvenient and countercultural” seems to matter more than standing for the truth.
Total rejection and uncritical praise both bind you to the spirit of the age; intransigence apart from discernment, apart from reading the signs of the times, still takes it cues from the merely contemporary. Such a conservatism shades into reaction, moved more by fear than hope, mustering only doomed rear-guard campaigns as a response to the genuine perplexities of modern life.
Might the reason to convert have something to do with being saved from my sins? Tell me Rome has a better account of how I am right with God. Tell me that being right with God (as opposed being right with mother earth) even matters.
Wasn’t it someone important who said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose own his soul”?