I’m reading Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, by Uta Ranke-Heinemann, a prominent self-excommunicated German Catholic theologian. It was highly recommended to me as a final damning proof of the Catholic Church’s misogyny and loathing of sex, and I have found that nothing lifts one’s spirits quite like reading the very best popular writing the opposition has to offer and finding it wanting. (The God Delusion did more to strengthen my Catholic faith than The Interior Castle — which, I admit, may mean there’s something wrong with me.)
To this point, Ranke-Heinemann’s work is all I’d hoped for. The entire chapter on masturbation, for example, is spent expounding the horrors of Dr. Tissot, Onanania, infibulation, and the whole insane anti-fapping medical panic of the 18th and 19th centuries. The James J. Heaney Institute is second to none in condemning the medical groupthink and willful cultural blindness that allowed parents and authorities to carry out all manner of tortures on their children lest they fall into the habit of self-pollution. But it has not one whit to do with the Church’s practices or teachings on the subject — except insofar as priests and the faithful allowed themselves to be enticed by bad medicine and bad science into acting against the best interests of those entrusted to them. (The James J. Heaney Institute also condemns the medical groupthink and willful cultural blindness that’s created the most radical, destructive pro-porn, pro-fap society in history. We look forward to the day when Dr. Kinsey joins Dr. Tissot on the ash heap of sexology. Let’s see Heinemann join us in that!) The worst you can say of the Church in the 19th century is that it did not do enough to combat the era’s corrosive culture.
However, as I was partway through, I was struck by a depressing realization: in two centuries, when the Culture of Death has fallen and sexual ethics restored to something resembling a healthy and virtuous mean for the first time in half a millennium, the enemies of the Church are going to write prim little theology tracts condemning the Catholic Church for being pro-abortion and pro-masturbation and pro-divorce in the 20th and 21st centuries. Sure, these future polemicists will acknowledge, the Church “officially” condemned those things as sin, but huge parts of the priesthood and the faithful ignored the teachings outright, and much of the episcopate was complicit or even cooperative in the effort to get around the official line. They’ll cite quotes and homilies and annulments and bishops’ conferences and statistics and thus “prove” that the Church never meant what she said, and was really a part of the culture of death all along. The culture of the future, always eager to hurt Catholicism, will latch onto this, and it will become conventional wisdom: the libertine, licentious Church hated babies and families, and secretly still does. All our pro-life efforts are going to win the war on abortion eventually, but they will earn us exactly nil in the history books of the future.
Don’t believe me? Just look how conventional wisdom attacks the Church for being pro-slavery… when the Church was, in fact, on the front lines in combating the chattel slavery of the 19th century. And look how Uta Reinke-Heinemann attacks the Church for being anti-sex… when she was, in fact, the only major institution still possessed of its wits about the goodness of human sexuality.
It’s late, and I have an fellowship application to write. Good night.