The election of Pope Francis has left some on the left a little disarmed. For decades they have been calling for a pope who is humble and cares about the poor. Now that they have one, they will finally be forced to admit that for them, true liberation has nothing to do with “social justice” — it’s always been about sex. Some on the left want human sexuality put in the service of political revolution, and want that Freudian-Marxist dream validated by the culture at large — including the Catholic Church.
It hasn’t changed in years, whomever the pope may be. John Paul II was regularly denounced as an inflexible conservative, even as he wrote brilliant books about human sexuality like “Love and Responsibility.” In April 2005, Pope Benedict conducted his inaugural mass. Days later “Meet the Press,” hosted by Tim Russert, assembled a round table of Catholics to discuss the new pontificate. The guests were liberal Catholics E.J. Dionne, Thomas Cahill and Sister Mary Aquin O’Neill (liberal Protestant Jon Meacham also joined in) and conservative Catholics Joseph Bottum, Rev. Thomas Bohlin and Rev. Joseph Fessio.
The liberals on the show all called for what liberals always call for: married priests, female priests, the end of celibacy, a looser view of human sexuality. The show was more than halfway over when Joseph Bottum pointed out that Pope Benedict was economically to the left of his predecessor, John Paul II: “If the 1991 encyclical from John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, might be described as three cheers for democracy, two cheers for capitalism, Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, would have gave only one cheer, but you wouldn’t know that from all of the coverage that describes him as a hard-liner, conservative, authoritarian, because the great liberal tradition even within the Church, even Mr. Cahill speaks for, has been narrowed down until it’s all just about sex.”
Everything changes except the avant-garde. This Sunday’s episode of “Meet the Press,” the first since Pope Francis’ election, proved this. The most idiotic remark, of course, came from Chris Matthews. Matthews ran down the checklist of liberal demands: more power for women (never mind the saints, over half of whom are female), more respect for gays and a revisiting of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s famous 1968 encyclical upholding the Church’s teaching against contraception. Humanae Vitae warned that the increased use of contraception would lead to four things: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.
Yeah, Chris Matthews is right. None of those things have happened.
The one orthodox thinker on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” was Francis Cardinal George from Chicago. When moderator David Gregory prayed the liberal trinity of gay marriage, contraception and feminism, Cardinal George observed that the cultural motto these days should be “there is no god, and Freud is his prophet.” Yet Freud is not necessarily the entire problem; anyone who has read even some of his work knows that the man was something of a genius and more complex than conservatives give him credit for. Our culture is living in the wake not only of Freud, but of the 1960s, when the orgasm was elevated to a socio-political force that, if separated from commitment, could revolutionize the world.