The second wave [of attacks on the family] also accepted the Marxist premise that justice demands strict material equality. Next, the wagging finger turned from men to children. If women wish to have sex with men (so the thinking went), they should not be punished with unwanted offspring.
For the most part, artificial contraception was seen as the first ring of defense, but from the beginning, abortion was always the backup. The connection between contraception, economic equality, and access to abortion was made public in 1992 by the United States Supreme Court ruling on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the prior 1973 decision in favor of abortion in Roe v. Wade in these memorable words:
The Roe rule’s limitation on state power could not be repudiated without serious inequity to people who, for two decades of economic and social developments, have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail. The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.
Tolerance of legalized abortion is the gravest consequence that follows once you accept contraception, but it is not the only one. In 1930 the Anglican Communion became the first Christian group to approve of the use of artificial contraception. And following from this, former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also notes (approvingly) that to say yes to the condom is to lose the right to condemn sodomy. Separate sex from procreation, and homosexual unions becomes equivalent to heterosexual ones. To this end Williams has concluded:
In a church that accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous biblical texts, or on a problematic and nonscriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.
The logic of the Anglican archbishop is sound, of course — so long as you accept the premise. Within a church that accepts contraception, censuring gay unions does appear arbitrary. Although Roman Catholics now stand alone as the only Christian body that unequivocally rejects artificial contraception, prior to 1930 every Christian body — and many other religious groups — opposed it as an affront to human dignity. The temporary or permanent sterilization of a healthy man or women not only degrades the conjugal act; it undermines the union as such. As Mahatma Gandhi warned in 1925, “I urge the advocates of artificial methods of birth control to consider the consequences. Any large use of the methods is likely to result in the dissolution in the marriage bond.”
In any event, the eugenicist and anti-natal movement popularized by Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) and perpetuated through Planned Parenthood has been so overwhelmingly successful that great effort will be required to awaken the imaginations of the young to a world where children are not viewed as a social and economic burden. What atonement will be required for the holocaust of our little ones is difficult to imagine. Beyond searing our own consciences, we have only now begun to suffer the social costs of killing. Europe has entered its demographic winter; what China will experience once the full effect of wiping out a generation of girls is felt, one can hardly guess. Having turned first against men, and then against children, today the third wave of the assault on the family directly targets women.
It is from the third wave that the more bizarre claims about the sexes are being trumpeted, and most bizarre claim of all is that sex is illusory. For a generation, college freshman have learned to blink obediently when told that “gender” is a social construction. The term gender does refer to a social construct. But only words can have masculine, feminine, or even neuter gender: human beings have male or female sex. Feminists (and many Christians) used to argue for women’s suffrage on the grounds that men and women share a common nature. Now they claim a distinctly feminine irrationality and implicitly deny a common human nature.
On this score the leading edge of the feminist movement has traveled vast distances since Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). By and large, feminists today have repositioned the basis of their claims to follow the latest fashions of postmodern philosophy. Thus, the widely acclaimed scholar Luce Irigaray defends women’s privileged status not on the foundation of reason but on the basis of its denial. To cite just one example, in her work This Sex Which Is Not One we learn that: “Hers are contradictory words, somewhat mad from the standpoint of reason, inaudible to whoever listens to them with readymade grids, with a fully elaborated code in hand.” Whatever the author might wish to affirm, she appears to deny women their share in a common rationality. This is most unfortunate. For one thing, without participating in reason, there is little on which to base the principle of equality between the sexes. Likewise, arguing that women participate in different “rationalities” can serve only to decrease women’s happiness — since most desire to share in some sort of friendship with men. A world in which men and women do not share a universal reason might make some lesbians feel more at home; but it would be much smaller world to enjoy, without meaningful friendship between sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, mothers and their sons. (Irigaray at least seems to believe that a women’s happiness is better served apart from the family.) Not willing to be pigeonholed by the ready-made labels of hetero-homo or transexual identities, Irigaray proposes what has been termed “polymorphous sensuality.” Building public restrooms will never be the same.
If the ideology of gender is accepted, not only locker rooms will be undone; so will the family. Christians, Jews, Moslems, and old fashioned conservatives, have extended far too much tolerance toward the gender-engineers. As Pope Benedict XVI recently observed in his Christmas homily, the very notion of family, and the safety of children is at issue. “But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him.”
What are we to make of such waves? How can we begin to undo the damage done in the long war against the family? In the final segment of this series I’ll offer a few suggestions.
Return next week for Dr. Topping’s final installment of this three-part series, adapted from his recently published book Rebuilding Catholic Culture: How the Catechism Can Shape our Common Life (Sophia Institute Press).