"A Revolutionary Attraction | Stephen Adubato | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
On Pope Francis’ vision of the field hospital for the wounded warriors of the Sexual Revolution
Americans have been living in an historical moment during which their existential awareness of what it means to be human has been drastically altered. Many of these changes are the consequence of a more extensive series of shifts in approaches to questions of morality, society, and work which began at the dawn of the Modern Era. A significant road marker in the trajectory of the Modern Era’s legacy was the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. This watershed moment in history has left such an indelible mark on the collective psyche of our society that it has made its way into the American legal system; this has been most recently attested to by the Supreme Court’s decision to adjust the legal definition of marriage so that this institution would be extended to couples of the same sex.
The Sexual Revolution stands in a truly provoking position beside the Catholic Church—it provokes all people in contemporary society to ask what is at stake in their lives, and what will most adequately satisfy their needs and desires. The fundamental vocation of all members of the Body of Christ is to respond to the true needs of all people of the world. This has been re-emphasized through the brilliance of a new light which has been cast by the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Our Holy Father Pope Francis asks us to continue our work of evangelization with a heightened awareness of our Lord’s tender embrace of sinners, with a renewed remembrance of his gaze of mercy. Francis calls the Church to be “a field hospital after the battle.”1 What does it mean for the baptized to be doctors, nurses, and caretakers in the aftermath of the battle that has been waged by the Sexual Revolution? To propose a worldview that is often characterized as being archaic and even hateful in our modern milieu would require us to approach this task with great attention and nuance. Our anxiety in front of a seemingly Herculean task ought to find consolation in the witnesses of numerous faithful Christians in the Middle East who are facing persecution at the hands of the Islamic State. Their willingness to die for the sake of the Faith is not born of a devotion to a political or moral ideology, but rather of an awareness of the true nature of reality and of humanity; which are contingent upon, and thus meaningless without, the Incarnation of God through his Son, Jesus Christ. It is here that we must begin to respond to the invitation that is the Jubilee Year of Mercy that we respond to the needs of a world so severely impacted by the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution: a witness by an exceptionally fulfilled humanity, born of a life lived for the sake of “Another.”
In order to better understand the essential foundations of the Sexual Revolution, it emerged, in part, as a reaction to a mode of expressing human sexuality that was increasingly accused of being “repressive” and “meaningless.” A largely “puritanical” moral worldview was accused of having reduced the human person’s horizon of freedom and fulfillment. The sexual revolutionaries wanted a way out of this restrictiveness. Supported by scientific and psychological evidence that aimed to prove that sexual repression caused damage to the human person, they defended a “free” expression of sexuality that rejected any moral implications: “sexuality is a pleasurable experience and nothing but that… The therapeutic task consisted in changing the neurotic character into a genital character, and in replacing moral regulation by self-regulation.”2 The Sexual Revolution was preparing to ring in a new era of utopia. The hearts of these revolutionaries longed for this moment after what they perceived to be a period of drought brought on by puritanical legalism, and a reductive definition of the human person. These revolutionaries responded to their thirsty hearts’ fundamental need for liberation by devising a moral worldview (or lack thereof) which corresponded to the need generated by a puritanical proposal of an incomplete, and ultimately repressive, moral worldview.
What does the proposal of the revolutionaries have in common with the proposal of the Church?