Broken silences

Every year Time magazine names a Person or Persons of the Year to indicate who, in the magazine’s opinion, has had the greatest effect on life in the preceding 12 months. This year the designation went to women who came forward to denounce men who sexually harassed them.

Individual cases aside, without question the problem of improper sexual advances to women by men in politics, business, entertainment and so on has been a topic on virtually every newscast and front page for months. The excuse is given that such conduct always has been an issue. Undoubtedly it has, but this is the point. Women historically have suffered such humiliation and all else that goes with it. It is wrong.

Still, while deploring, and disgusted by, such reports, I am not surprised at the rash of incidents suggested by all the reports at present. What else would anyone expect? All this has occurred in our present culture in which sex has been reduced to little more than animal instinct, so often driven by nothing but selfishness. So many people have no trouble whatsoever with graphic sexual talk or even actions.

Our society’s preoccupation with sex is approaching obsession. But say that sexual relations respond to a God-given attraction between a man and a women who love each other, and who commit themselves to each other totally in selfless commitment for life, come what may, and people will think you are weird!

Whatever shortcomings humans had in the past regarding sexuality, this much is a fact. Years ago, the vast majority of Americans thought that sexual activity was appropriate only within boundaries, and these boundaries were put in place by Almighty God. Now God is gone from this discussion, as God has been removed from so many discussions in our day and time.

One person dismissed recent stories about politicians with the utterly incorrect statement that our country’s leaders “always” have failed in this respect. Ridiculous. Without question, some political leaders have fallen short, in the 20th century, for example, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

“Look at the record,” as one very moral politician, Alfred E. Smith, used to say, however. No one ever found fault as to personal propriety with Presidents Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

Once again, putting politics off the table, these politicians were leaders who never were accused of adultery or even of flirting with women. They were faithful to their spouses, good fathers, even while being very public figures who lived in goldfish bowls. They are worthy examples regardless of their politics.

Once upon a time, we honored entertainers who set fine moral examples: Bob Hope, Loretta Young, Lawrence Welk, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Remember them?

At the root of so much trouble in the way we have come to live is the utter disregard of, if not rejection of, God. It is not denominational. Once, Catholics, Protestants and Jews alike, of all races and ethnicities, came together in the belief that God was above all and had revealed to us humans the path that we should follow through life.

All institutionalized religions are suffering decline or weakening influence. True, differences apply, but this is the general plight or organized religion today. Not surprisingly, with the slippage in religious affiliation and religious practice has come a reduction of adherence to values that are religious in origin. So we have what we have. God help us.

It hardly is wrong that women who have been victimized by thoughtless men are complaining in public. They have a right to complain, by the moral law, and by civil law as well. But nothing will truly improve until our society again takes God seriously.

Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.