Monday, April 11, 2016


Thirty-Ninth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

The malice of lust consists in the abuse of a natural, a quasi-divine faculty, which is prostituted to ignoble purposes foreign to the ends by the Creator established. The lines along which this faculty may be legitimately exercised are laid down by natural and divine laws, destined to preserve God's rights, to maintain order in society and to protect man against himself. The laws result in the foundation of a state, called matrimony, within which the exercise of this human prerogative, delegated to man by the Creator, receives the sanction of divine authority, and becomes invested with a sacred character, as sacred as its abuse is abominable and odious.

To disregard and ignore this condition of things and to seek satisfaction for one's passions outside the domain of lawful wedlock, is to revolt against this order of creative wisdom and to violate the letter of the law. But the intrinsic malice of the evil appears in the nature of this violation. This abuse touches life; not life in its being, but in its source, in the principle that makes all vitality possible, which is still more serious. Immorality is, therefore, a moral poisoning of the wells of life. It profanes and desecrates a faculty and prerogative so sacred that it is likened to the almighty power of the Creator.

A manifold malice may attach to a single act in violation of the law of moral purity. The burden of a vow in either party incurring guilt, whether that vow be matrimonial or religious, is a circumstance that adds injustice or sacrilege to the crime, according to the nature of that vow; and the double guilt is on both parties. If the vow exists in one and the other delinquent, then the offense is still further multiplied and the guilt aggravated. Blood-relationship adds a specific malice of its own, slight or grievous according to the intimacy of said relationship. Fornication, adultery, sacrilege and incest - these, to give to things their proper names, are terms that specify various degrees of malice and guilt in this matter; and although they do not sound well or look well in print, they have a meaning which sensible folks should not ignore.

A lapse from virtue is bad; the habit or vice, voluntarily entertained, is infinitely worse. If the one argues weakness, even culpable, the other betrays a studied contempt for God and the law, an utter perversion of the moral sense that does not even esteem virtue in itself; an appalling thralldom of the spirit to the flesh, an appetite that is all ungodly, a gluttony that is bestial. Very often it supposes a victim held fast in the clutches of unfeeling hoggishness, fascinated or subjugated, made to serve, while serviceable; and then cast off without a shred of respectability for another. It is an ordinary occurrence for one of these victims to swallow a deadly potion on being shown her folly and left to its consequences; and the human ogre rides triumphantly home in his red automobile.

But the positions may be reversed; the victim may play the role of seductress, and, displaying charms that excite the passions, ensnare the youth whose feet are not guided by the lamp of experience, wisdom and religion. This is the human spider, soulless and shameless, using splendid gifts of God to form a web with which to inveigle and entrap a too willing prey. And the dead flies, who will count them!

The climax of infamy is reached when this sort of a thing is made, not a pastime, but a business, when virtue is put on the market with its fixed value attached and bartered for a price. There is no outrage on human feeling greater than this. We are all born of woman; and the sight of womanhood thus degraded and profaned would give us more of a shock if it were less common. The curse of God is on such wretches as ply this unnatural trade and live by infamy; not only on them, but on those also who make such traffic possible and lucrative. Considering all things, more guilty the latter than the former, perhaps. Active co-operation in evil makes one a joint partner in guilt; to encourage infamy is not only to sin, but also to share all the odium thereof; while he who contributes to the perpetuation of an iniquity of this nature is, in a sense, worse than the unfortunates themselves.

The civil law which seeks to eliminate the social evil of prostitution by enactment and process, gives rise, by enactment and process, to another evil almost as widespread. Divorce is a creature of the law, and divorce opens the door to concubinage, legalized if you will, but concubinage just the same. The marriage tie is intact after as well as before the decree of divorce; no human power can break that bond. The permission therefore to re-marry is permission to live in adultery, and that permission is, of its very nature, null and void. They who avail themselves of such a permission and live in sin, may count on the protection of the law, but the law will not protect them against the wrath of the Almighty who condemns their immoral living.

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