By John Horvat
The rash of sexual harassment scandals is sweeping the nation to the point that it seems almost no male is exempt from its terrible fury. Anyone can be denounced by the media. Liberals point to "toxic masculinity" and social structures that must be overthrown. Feminists blame the remnants of patriarchy that manage to survive in today's politically correct world. And powerful men who have abused their positions of authority are now having to give a reckoning.
Everyone has a theory that points to social, cultural or psychological causes. However, the only compelling explanation for what has gone wrong is a theological one. Nothing else can explain it. Indeed, the inconclusive media babble around the issue only confirms an unwillingness to face reality.
The theological cause, of course, is the doctrine of Original Sin. This dogma of the Faith holds that in Paradise, man and woman were made to live in harmony without the violence of the unbridled passions. All the faculties of the souls were in order. The passions obeyed the dictates of the intellect and the commands of the will.
However, our first parents were subjected to a trial and sinned. The consequences of this act were a fall from grace, suffering and death. Humanity is subjected to a strong tendency to sin and a weakness of the will called concupiscence.
Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that concupiscence is a consequence of Original Sin that destroys the harmony within human nature. The appetites no longer are in harmony with the intellect and will. It is for this reason that St. Paul writes: "I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members" (Romans 7:23).
The stain of Original Sin is inherited by all men from the moment of conception. From the time of the Fall onward, all men (and women) without exception are prone to sin. History is an account of the fight between sin and virtue; good and evil.
As a result of Original Sin, the Church wisely erected structures, habits and barriers to make the occasions of sin difficult and facilitate the practice of virtue. The Church administered the sacraments that aid in overcoming our concupiscence. Especially in the highly explosive area of sexual morality, norms of modesty, manners and decorum were observed in which men acted as gentlemen and women as ladies.
And Christian society itself was organized in a way that minimized the effects of Original Sin. The natural, God-given institutions of family and community serve to regulate the disordered human appetites.
All this is logical, based on the universal experience of human misery. A person might not believe in Original Sin, but it is hard to deny that there is something seriously wrong with man that needs to be constantly regulated and restrained. The Church's explanation and measures correspond to an observable reality. The benefits of family and community in society are likewise hard to deny.
Modernity vehemently rejects the dogma of Original Sin and sin in general.
For example, the more individualistic liberals see the individual as endowed with infallible reason, a strong will and orderly passions. They believe that people will always make the right decision or look after their best interest if they are given the freedom to make choices. The blame for suffering is ignorance, which is the cause of errors and crimes. Proper education is presented as a solution. To cite the astute observation of Catholic thinker Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, liberals replaced the dogma of Original Sin with another: the immaculate conception of the individual.
When individuals fail to live up to the expectation of liberal ideologues, they simply change the focus of their theory. Thus, modernity has produced the wide spectrum of alternatives that include the immaculate conception of the masses, the State or one of the social classes.
Inevitably, alternatives like the masses and the State also fail to live up to expectations. The problem, we are told, is always the social structures and systems of society not the wages of sin. Thus, liberals always engage in an elusive search for the right system, be it liberalism or socialism, that will solve all problems — all problems, that is, except the existence of Original Sin.
Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of this false liberal doctrine is the Sexual Revolution of the sixties. It saw maximizing individual freedom as the highest good. The assumption of this revolution is that the cumbersome restraints of morality could be dismantled without destroying society. It was supposed that the promiscuous mixing of the sexes without the barriers of modesty or morals would lead to a society of love.
Instead, it has led to the explosion of unbridled passions. The brutal consequences of the passions can be seen in abortions, unnatural vice, pornography, divorces and abused children. Today, any barrier can be overturned in the name of sexual freedom.
Not only has the Sexual Revolution facilitated sin, but it's created the occasions of sin everywhere. People are immersed in a culture of impurity and immorality.
Thus, we reach the present state of the sexual harassment crisis.
In a society undermined by the notion of complete sexual unrestraint, it should be no surprise that the restraint of consent would also be overturned. While all are responsible for their own bad acts, those acts are facilitated when no social safeguards are in place.
However, the liberal establishment is quick to pivot from the society of love narrative, where all could be sexually free, to a feminist narrative, which angrily denounces the tragic consequences of this total sexual freedom taken to its extreme. It is a selective outrage that still embraces absolute sexual freedom, abortion and other modern evils that victimize countless women.
But they will not address the notion of Original Sin, or any sin. They will never acknowledge the irrational acts that offend a benevolent God. Instead, they will always seek to blame the social institutions, morals and restraints that safeguard society from sin. They will denounce the consequences of the revolutions they set in motion.
The cause of this crisis and so many others is a theological one. Until people understand this truth, fallen humanity will continue to tumble ever more deeply.